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"Things are so, so, so, so, so, so, so bad when it comes to mainstream journalism and _________________ at the moment." You can fill in that blank with a wide variety of topics nowadays. Pretty much anything that is deeply personal to meaningful numbers of Americans, all the stuff that we crudely sum up as "the culture war". Mainstream journalism is simply at sea on all that kind of stuff. Flailing uselessly on a good day.

I see two reasons for this. One is the thing which Michael Crichton, of all people, nicely summarized: "You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well....You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect....you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate. You turn the page, and forget what you know." For me personally, this is the core of why I went from a hard-core mainstream news junkie (a former professional daily newspaper reporter actually) to someone who now bans NPR and the NYT and WSJ et al from my daily life.

The other thing is that J-school cliche about how journalists' highest calling is to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Many consumers of news have heard and approve of that attitude. The problem is that it is a _different_ mission statement from "all the news that's fit to print." So articles like the one you wrote about here, which are trying to examine the current state of an issue in a balanced way, get blasted by those who think journalists are in the "comfort the afflicted" business. This is not a resolvable conflict; those are two different missions. Gotta pick one and stick to it.

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