Sunday, April 20, 2008

Media and Democracy

Does public distrust of the media threaten democracy or does the media's failure to report and analyze the news in a balanced way fail the public and democracy? Larwyn just forwarded a post from Jammiewearingfool who comments on a New York Times editorial:

"Get a load of this pap:

"'It might seem a bit self-flagellating for the editorial board of the New York Times to bemoan the collapse of Americans’ trust in the press over the last 30 years. But it seems that the media’s fall from grace is undermining democracy.'

"Oh my. Now because people aren't getting their marching orders from this socialist rag, the bumpkins in flyover country may not vote the way the elitist snobs in Manhattan want them to."

As I mentioned in class the other day, it would be instructive to compare the New York Times's, Fortune's and Business Week's coverage of both Enron and Wal*mart during the years 1997 to 2000. Were the Times and the business press suspicious of the payment of an $80 million bonus to Rebecca Marks for building a $1 billion power plant in Dabhol, India that never opened? Or was Paul Krugman busily collecting $50,000 in fees each year from Enron and so managed to overlook this story? While virtually none of the media questioned the Dabhol plant or any of the other long litany of incompetent investments that Enron had made, and were telling the public that breaches of fiduciary duty meant that Enron was the most creative firm in America, how did the Times and Fortune describe Wal*Mart, which has consistently helped the poor by creating consumer surplus?

Rather than bemoan the public's mistrust, perhaps the New York Times should explain.

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