A debate in which many media outlets are trying to argue themselves out of doing their job. “No fact-checking!” is the cry; their job is to just report, not actually assess and evaluate what is said. This is not something new. This has been a problem for a good long time.
Anyone remember Jodi Wilgoren? The NY Times reporter who insisted that she didn’t have time to determine what the truth was? She used to write all these articles on creation and evolution that carefully dedicated just as much time to presenting the creationism side as the evolution side, and couldn’t be troubled to check whether what the creationists were saying was factually true. She even came right out and said her job was to explain their views.
Eschaton: Journamalism: Jodi Wilgoren tells us how she sees her job:
I don’t consider myself a creationist. I don’t have any interest in sharing my personal views on how the canyon was carved, mostly because I’ve spent almost no time pondering my personal views — it takes all my energy as a reporter and writer to understand and explain my subjects’ views fairly and thoroughly.
One of the complaints journalists have with bloggers is that they don’t do “original reporting.” But, now we see that “original reporting” has, for some journalists, become nothing more than finding people who have opinions on stuff and telling readers what those opinions are. And, amazingly, according to Wilgoren, she expends no effort in contemplating the credibility of those views. Apparently her editors are happy with this.
Jeebus. As PZ Myers writes:
Who needs facts, ideas, and research? The reporter’s brain is like an empty sponge, free of content, which just soaks up everyone’s opinions indiscriminately and without judgement, and is then wrung out over the pages of the newspaper. Actually thinking and evaluating those opinions in the light of evidence isn’t possible with a sponge for a brain.
When did journalism come to this deplorable state?
When did the NY Times decide that porosity, permeability, and flocculence were important job qualifications?
That was in 2005. You don’t believe me? She was writing a series of articles on evolution and creation that simply pretended that the fools on the other side were fully credible and honest. Here’s an example: Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive. Just look at that title alone: evolution is on the defensive, put there by scholars. The entire article reads like a press release from the Discovery Institute, recounting the tale of their long struggle, and has nothing from the side of science other than a quote from Eugenie Scott which praises the DI for “They have packaged their message much more cleverly”. I think Eugenie would have said much more about the content of their package, but that wouldn’t get published in a Wilgoren article.
What happened to her? She got promoted.
Nothing has changed. I don’t expect anything from tonight’s debate other than that, maybe, the world will be made a little worse by the slack assholes of journalism who stand guard to make sure every lie is given the same respect as the truth.