I recently asked my friend Bob (a really fine journalist) about an idea I came across in a WSJ column by Peggy Noonan. The following line sort of sums it up:
“Great reporting is what every honest person wants now, it’s the one ironic thing we have less of in journalism than we need.”
Bob responded with this quote by Alex Rohr, President of Rohr News Network, a fictional character in a novel (The Race) by Richard North Patterson:
“The old model was that news is fact, and objectivity the ideal. Today’s truth is that “news” like anything else we sell to the public, is a product. Our news product isn’t some abstract notion of truth, or even reality. It’s a story–consistent and repetitive, with a message that’s emotionally fulfilling to the viewer. We mislead no one. Turn on (our news), and you’re getting exactly what you want. I can help you feel better about this war, or fighting terrorists, and you don’t have to think about them anymore. If we also use that power to promote our friends and advance our interests, so be it. News is a business, not a public service.”
And our nation is poorer for it.