fit to print after all
The headline of this NYT story, to be fully accurate, should read “Reticence of Mainstream Media Becomes a Story Itself, and Blogosphere Shows the Way Back.”
I suppose it’s not surprising that, to find the best commentary on the mainstream media’s distaste and slow engagement with the Edwards scandal, NYT leads into its story with a lengthy quote from a blog — albeit a blog of a major paper.
Political blogs, some cable networks and a few newspapers reported on it — or, more accurately, reported on The Enquirer reporting on it. Jay Leno and David Letterman made Mr. Edwards the butt of jokes on their late-night shows, but their own networks declined to report on the rumors surrounding him on the evening news. …
Some of their comments point to a lack of interest in a story about the private conduct of an also-ran presidential candidate, and a distaste for following the lead of a publication they hold in low esteem. Only in Mr. Edwards’s home state, North Carolina, did newspapers aggressively chase the story in the last few weeks.
On Friday, Phil Bronstein, the former editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, in his blog on that paper’s Web site, poked fun at the reticence of the mainstream media, “picking at it with their noses held, as if looking for something valuable in a moldy dumpster.”
“On journalism sites, the finger-pointing, self-loathing, self-righteousness and tut-tutting was massive,” he wrote. “Does anyone really think that a story splashed in the tabs and debated on blogs like a powerful fire backdraft is somehow not part of the public discourse?”
Still, there’s a larger dynamic at work. We’re numb to our distrust in politicians and in the mainstream media, and politicians and the MSM are behind the times in what they think they can get away with.
Consumers are faster than institutions. That’s one of the Internet’s big lessons. It was only a matter of time before a National Enquirer story got it right first and could not be ignored. The viewing, reading public has long since turned to late night comics, blogs and Jon Stewart for news it trusts more.
And don’t make the mistake that the common-denominator consumer doesn’t care about trust or credibility at all. There’s a constant equilibrium between our susceptibility to manipulation and our innate desire for a reliable source. Maybe in a both-sides-now Obama era, the pundits and the breathless Internet plaudits will keep that alloyed truth in mind.
And another thing: Leave John Edwards alone. Yes, he lied. Yes, it’s bad. Yes, it hurts the Democrats, Obama, and the discourse on poverty and injustice that Edwards helped to raise to a national dialogue. But it’s not really a national matter. Look what his wife said. I believe her. Let’s try to grow up.