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April 14, 2004

I THOUGHT THE CUSTOMER WAS ALWAYS RIGHT -- but not in the news business:

At a time when public distrust of the news media appears to be at a dangerously high level, there is evidence of a deep and fundamental disagreement between those who produce news and those who consume it.

Although most journalists believe quality and values are vital elements of their work and see themselves as providing an important civic function, the reading and viewing public seems to think of journalism as a bottom-line-driven enterprise populated by the ethically challenged. Last month, the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism released a wide-ranging study -- "The State of the News Media 2004" -- that concluded that a key factor in journalism's sagging image is "a disconnection between the public and the news media over motive."

"Journalists believe they are working in the public interest, and are trying to be fair and independent in that cause," the survey found. "The public thinks these journalists are either lying or deluding themselves. The public believes that news organizations are operating largely to make money, and that the journalists who work for these organizations are primarily motivated by professional ambition and self-interest."

Last night's press conference won't have changed any minds.

UPDATE: A snapshot of the problem, here. And more symptoms are identified here.