What’s wrong with the media, in one paragraph

The Atlantic runs this regular column where they ask people about their reading habits — this time, they asked Aaron Sorkin, who sneers at the web and announces that he reads a couple of newspapers…or at least, he reads the front page and the op-eds in a couple of newspapers.

When I read the Times or The Wall Street Journal, I know those reporters had to have cleared a very high bar to get the jobs they have. When I read a blog piece from “BobsThoughts.com,” Bob could be the most qualified guy in the world but I have no way of knowing that because all he had to do to get his job was set up a website–something my 10-year-old daughter has been doing for 3 years. When The Times or The Journal get it wrong they have a lot of people to answer to. When Bob gets it wrong there are no immediate consequences for Bob except his wrong information is in the water supply now so there are consequences for us.

“A very high bar”…who? David Brooks, Tom Friedman, or perhaps he is referring to Ross Douthat? With the exception of Paul Krugman, the only bar you have to clear is to be smug, rich, and obscenely privileged. And don’t get me started on the WSJ opinion pages — there, you have clear the hurdle of being so far to the right you risk being a Nazi.

This is the problem, that people blithely assume that because it is in the NY Times or the WSJ that it must be right — I’d rather read BobsThoughts.com because there, at least, poor lonely Bob must rely on the quality of his arguments rather than the prestige of his name and affiliation to persuade.

I’ll also add that when Bob throws the wrong information into the “water supply”, he’s only contaminating his own well; when Brooks or Friedman do it, they’re soaking the whole nation. And if Sorkin thinks that having a position on a big name newspaper means you’re exempt from the problem of bad information, then he’s dumber than his writing makes him sound. It was the Times and the Journal that pounded the drums of war, and fed conspiracy theories about the Clintons, to name just a few examples.

At least Bob’s opinions didn’t result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands.