Edwards Scandal Demonstrates Why Public Moving to Web for News
Various reasons have been offered, including the emergence of interactive media, increased work hours, more commuting - all of which aren't without merit. One explanation that usually isn't discussed is that, just maybe, the public is sick of the media picking and choosing what they think is news.
And while it is amusing to see journalists who oppose government media intervention on behalf of the public (FCC) arrogating that privilege to themselves, we'd all be better off without the laughs because the hypocrisy is frustrating the national discourse. Instead of reporting the news, far too many journalists have now taken it upon themselves to protect the public from it.
In the recent past, media self-censorship was pretty near impossible to get around, except in towns where two or more newspapers with differing ideologies circulated. With the advent of the Internet, however, dissatisfied news consumers have a world of alternative sources. And they're leaving in droves.
Who can blame them? If you wanted to see good news from Iraq until very recently, you pretty much had to turn to the blogosphere or read the official government reports on the Web.
If you wanted to see the brutal decapitation of Nick Berg by Islamic radicals, you had to go online. Ditto if you wanted to find out the party affiliation of Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former Democratic governor of New York. Bill Clinton's infamous affair with Monica Lewinsky was buried news until Internet impresario Matt Drudge brought it to light.
The reasons for this self-censorship are many, but perhaps foremost is pure politics.
While the three broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC identified Spitzer as a Democrat in the midst of his prostitution scandal just 20 percent of the time, they did so 100 percent of the time for Republican Sen. David Vitter and Sen. Larry Craig during their sex-related scandals.
This unfortunate trend has manifested itself in spades in the case of former Democratic senator and presidential candidate John Edwards and his 2006 affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter.
Instead of jumping on the allegation when it first emerged in October, America's elite media blithely ignored it, aside from a few reports that Edwards (falsely) denied he had cheated on his cancer-stricken wife.
Journalistic pooh-bahs are falling over themselves to issue excuses for the media's failure. The most common justification has been the story's provenance, the tabloid newspaper National Enquirer.