Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Death of Journalism

We've been hearing the death rattle of real journalism for a long time. It's been a sad thing to watch. But though the media's own shortcomings have had a lot to do with its own slow decline, so too has the public's acceptance of opinion as the new journalism.

According to an Annenberg poll conducted from March 7 though May 2, more Americans see Bill O'Reilly as a journalist than see Bob Woodward as a journalist. They were asked the simple question, “Please tell me if you think (the individual named) is a journalist or not?” A full 40 percent said that Bill O'Reilly is a journalist while only about 30 percent said that Bob Woodward is a journalist. For another measure of comparison, 27 percent of respondents said that Rush Limbaugh is a journalist. Rush? Do you have anything to say about that?

“I am America’s anchorman, doing news play-by-play 15 hours a week for nearly 17 years now, and this is just more evidence that the old media’s monopoly-like dominance is finished,” the conservative talk show host said.
Oh, right, I forgot. I don't care what Rush Limbaugh has to say.

The poll goes on to say that overwhelming numbers of the press consider Woodward a journalist and Limbaugh and O'Reilly opinion peddlers, but that doesn't really matter.

These guys, the punditocracy, as Eric Alterman termed them, have made their mark by criticizing the "Main Stream Media." MSM, if you want to be cute and impress the bloggers. They've accused the press of being lazy and biased, but they've always been able to escape criticism for being biased by claiming that they're not journalists. They're paid to give their opinions, and that's an inherently biased job. Basically, they've built their own bases of power from the premise that the public wants unbiased journalists. And not just that they want unbiased journalists, but that they want people to call journalists on their biases.

So what of the fact that the members of this self-styled watchdog group are now apparently viewed as journalists by the public? What does that do to their world view? Is a meta-punditocracy going to emerge, complete with cable and radio broadcasts, to call O'Reilly and Limbaugh on their all-too-apparent biases?

I think not. I think that these fellows feel better about themselves if they say they're for the little guy, but they'll likely be the first to say that the public's perception of them doesn't change a thing so far as their own "journalistic" responsibilities. Rush will be content to hear himself described as a journalist so long as it helps him cry out against the MSM, but as soon as accountability is mentioned, he'll be the first to say that he's not a journalist.