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.
As the saying goes, the problem with free speech is that you get what you pay for. Obviously there are great writers and thinkers publishing on the web and there have also been times when citizen journalists have made a positive contribution to the public discussion, but I think the cost/benefit is way out of whack. Like saying that graffiti is good because somewhere in there is a Banksy.
Not to be unoriginal but Beck and Limbaugh are eye-poppingly awful. It would be easier to buy their love of America if they didn't have such hate for Americans. They're my generation's Joe McCarthy--tarring anyone who disagrees with them with schoolyard epithets and, of course, being "un-American" or even on the side of America's enemies--but they reach a much, much larger audience than McCarthy did. They appeal to the worst in the worst among us and squander an opportunity--all those eyes and ears--to inspire. I'm a fan of the two-party system and a fan of debate. It's only by having smart people ("elites") who disagree with each other that we arrive at what we hope is the best solution to a problem. The effort gets choked to death when one side says the other is fundamentally evil. Neither the right nor the left has a monopoly on incivility and imbecility but--with my eyes and ears being connected to my brain like everyone else's--I find the right trades in it a lot more than the left.
Yes, I've seen Olbermann and Matthews and Schultz and Maddow but they simply don't compare to Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and Coulter. And Ingraham and Breitbart and Palin and Gingrich. (And with Fox News No. 1 on cable and Limbaugh No. 1 on the radio, where did we get the idea that the media was controlled by the left?) But there's reason for hope. Maureen Dowd--a bogeywoman for the right--won her Pulitzer Prize for taking Bill Clinton apart. I've been just as proud when my friend, Peggy Noonan, puts country before party and journalism before everything. David Frum (George W. Bush's chief speech writer), puts a lot of effort into imploring Republicans not to be led by TV and radio personalities rather than political leaders. Mark McKinnon, another senior advisor to President Bush, makes constant, thoughtful and energetic appeals to the moderate wing of his party. Neither Frum nor McKinnon have won any popularity contests with Republicans as a result.
For more Media Diets: Adam Moss, Jennifer Egan, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Glassner, Joe Weisenthal, Andrea Mitchell, Anna Holmes, Eric Schmidt, Nick Denton, David Brooks, Andrew Breitbart, Gary Shteyngart, Tom McGeveran, Megan McCarthy, Bret Stephens, Joseph Epstein, Dave Weigel, Christopher Hayes, Chris Anderson, Lewis Lapham, Reihan Salam, Peggy Noonan, Joe Randazzo, Jay Rosen, Neetzan Zimmerman, Clay Shirky and many more here.
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