The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Believers and suckers: another American Dilemma

Reading Columbia J-professor Samuel J Freedman in USA Today today, one's forced to ponder another of those essentially American dichotomies: that a nation of believers should have produced a system so reliant on the exploitation of the credulity of suckers.

I'm sure Freedman is a great guy: but counterfactual pi-jaws just get up the paying customer's nose.

Journalism everywhere has always been based on the manipulation of fact - or, at least, I have not been shown evidence of an era in which that was not true.

The paradigm is wholly misconceived: instead of bleating like a preacher about having lost the faith of his congregation, let the media admit their readers in as equals, tell them they must not believe, but use their own intelligence and experience as adults to judge media product, and use the manifold means of feedback to express their views.

Journalism - being done by humans - will by definition always be flawed. Journos will always have to prove their contentions if they want to be believed.

If that hurts their sensitive souls: tough.

(Given the good work that the CJR's Campaign Desk (oft quoted here) is doing to anatomise the failings of journalism from the inside, it's amazing that a Columbia J-prof should be taking such an antediluvian line.)


The Baltimore Sun today on some of the alarm-bells that rang on Kelley stories. To what extent was the paper's management wilfully closing their ears to such warnings?

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