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Legitimacy

September 30th, 2012 - 10:37 pm

It’s getting to them.  David Carr at the New York Times tries to laugh off the charge of media bias. But clearly it is creeping under his skin. “In the last few days, conservatives have become agitated about Mitt Romney’s drop-off in the polls … in their view, the mysterious drop can only be explained by the fact that the mainstream media have their collective liberal thumb on the scale, in terms of coverage and, more oddly, polling.”

To imagine bias is only paranaoia he says. “Let’s be fair. It’s not as if everyone who believes there is a liberal bias needs to be fitted for a tinfoil helmet. But the trope is losing traction, partly because there are many robust champions of the right, which gives conservatives the means to project their message far beyond the choir.”

But Carr is is confused. Who is the ‘they’ he speaks of who have the temerity to project their message beyond the choir besides his circle? And why, pray, tell is there even a circle?

More importantly, he’s got the charge wrong. The conservative media isn’t claiming that Romney is actually losing to Obama. They are only claiming that the mainstream media is wrongly proclaiming Obama the winner in order to dampen Romney’s turnout. Romney, at least, is willing to grant legitimacy to the MSM.

“I think we have a system of free press,” he told CBS before an appearance in Toledo, Ohio. “People are able to provide their own perspective based upon their own beliefs. I think there are some people who are more in my camp, there’s a lot of people who are more in his camp, and I don’t worry about that.”

Why can’t Carr make the same allowance for his industry rivals? Maybe because it would imply there was no privileged point of view; that he should accord the same respect for the “tinfoil” crowd that he feels is due to him.  Carr’s real objection is that badged journalists are no longer licensed to preach from on high.

Now even the polls themselves are being impugned, with suggestions that they are skewed by left-leaning math. Various conservative bloggers and pundits have complained that a slew of polls showing gains by President Obama were guilty of “oversampling Democrats” and “confirmation bias.”…

Maybe though — and I’m just putting this out there — the polls and the coverage suggest that Mr. Romney has had a bad couple of weeks and he needs to turn it around if he wants to win the election. On Sunday, a well-informed observer pointed out as much on ABC’s “This Week.”

Why not impugn the polls if there’s a reason to ? Are they sacred? And is why citing ABC’s “This Week” proof of anything? Because it once meant something?  Suppose Carr is right. What if Romney is lagging in the true distribution; then if so that will be proved in the November polls. We’ll all know the truth on the day.

But in the meantime, people are obliged to believe nothing. And if they do credit something, they are also entitled to question it. The real significance of news stories that show a significant portion of the American public unwilling to accept the media’s interpretations of events in advance of the actual outcome is that they’ve lost their mojo.

That is the news.

No matter how Carr spins it this represents a huge decline in his industry. They once enjoyed a implicit belief in their reports. Their reports were the facts. The New York Times was the Gold Standard of journalistic credibility; it was the newspaper of record.  To now complain that people doubt it is the headline. To say that it is now reduced to haggling over its credibility is the bombshell. It’s like saying Queen Elizabeth II now shops at the five and dime.

To use a cliche, ‘people doubt the media’ is not a ‘dog bites man story, but man bites dog story’.  And it is no use to say that this fall in credibility is due to the impertinence of the peanut gallery. Had the New York Times and its sisters maintained their record of accuracy, who would reject them? No one but an imbecile casts away accurate weighing scales or dumps watches that keep precision time or discards equipment that functions unerringly. The real story here is that an industry with a near monopoly lost its market because it consistently produced a shoddy product.

In this respect The New York Times is no different from General Motors.  It’s customers didn’t leave them because they were perverse or wore tin-foil hats. Their customers left them because they kept selling their loyal base nothing but s**t.

The challenge for the MSM is to win back their customer base by doing better than their rivals. So far they have pretended that nothing unusual happened in Libya and that Fast and Furious is a Vin Diesel Movie.  How cool is that? Keep it up and who will read them? The days of merely taking the high hand are over. No more Chevy Volts. No more treating the audience like Dolts.


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