The Media, Losing Their Way

David Broder in today’s Washington Post, discusses the demise of sensible, substantive journalism and wonders if the media will ever find its way back:

In a year when war in Iraq, the threat of terrorism and looming problems with the federal budget and the nation’s health care system cry out for serious debate, the news organizations on which people should be able to depend have been diverted into chasing sham events: a scurrilous and largely inaccurate attack on the Vietnam service of John Kerry and a forged document charging President Bush with disobeying an order for an Air National Guard physical.

With these events coming after the editors of two respected national newspapers, the New York Times and USA Today, were forced to resign because their organizations were duped by lying staff reporters, it is hard to overcome the sense that the professional practices and code of responsibility in journalism have suffered a body blow.

After almost a half-century in this business, I certainly feel a sense of shame and embarrassment at our performance. The feeling is not relieved by the awareness that others in journalism not only did fine work on other stories but took the lead in exposing these instances of gross malpractice.

The common feature — and the disturbing fact — is that none of these damaging failures would have occurred had senior journalists not been blind to the fact that the standards in their organizations were being fatally compromised.

Cavalier’s Guardian Watchblog compares the media’s fall to that of the Roman Empire. Not so sure I buy that argument, but he makes a compelling case.