Why I don't trust readers.

Media criticism.
Aug. 5 2005 7:33 PM

Why I Don't Trust Readers

I'm sad to report that their credibility has fallen to an all-time low.

(Continued from Page 1)

The larger point that the boneheads who so despise the media need to appreciate is that the mainstream American press is better than it's ever been. If you don't believe me, visit your local library and roll through a couple of miles of microfilm of the papers you're currently familiar with. By any comparison, today's press is more accurate, ethical, reliable, independent, transparent, and trustworthy than ever. Skepticism is a healthy disposition in life. I wouldn't be a press critic if I regarded the press as hunky-dory. But mindless skepticism is mainly an excuse for ignorance. Even the people who denounce the New York Times as the bible of liberals ultimately get most of their useful news from it.

Your average reader is not to be trusted because he just doesn't know his own mind. In addition to the Jayson Blair finding, the Annenberg survey offers this gem. When asked how important it is to them to live in a country in which they can criticize the government, a resounding 81 percent of respondents say "very important" and 14 percent say "somewhat important." The verdict is almost unanimous.

Advertisement

Now, one would assume that what's good for the individual—rip into your government the best you can—would also be good for journalists, who are paid to watch-dog politicians. But the average reader can't keep a consistent thought in his head for two minutes. When the same Annenberg survey asked if government should have the right to limit the press in reporting a story,  an appalling 68 percent said either "always," "sometimes," or "rarely." Only 29 percent said "never." Let's hope the First Amendment never comes up for a vote.

I've had it with all you unreliable, inconsistent, and detestable blockheads. I've given you every possible chance and you've failed me miserably. Tonight I'm ordering a custom bumper-sticker that reads, "I Don't Trust the Mainstream Media Audience."

******

What puts the corn starch in your shorts? Send e-mail to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Correction, Aug. 8, 2005: The article originally misstated when disgraced politician Arthur E. Teele Jr. killed himself. It was hours after he spoke with DeFede, not "moments later." (Return to the corrected sentence.) 

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 22 2014 1:01 PM The Surprisingly Xenophobic Origins of Wonder Bread
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.