Fundamentally Corrupt

September 15, 2008 11:13 a.m.

Of all the shortcomings of the establishment press today, none is more central to the corruption of the profession than the decision to prioritize balance over accuracy. That corruption is visibly on display in the current coverage of the McCain campaign’s policy of deliberate lies. And you won’t find a better example than Cathleen Decker’s piece in yesterday’s LA Times.

Read into the article and you’ll see numerous instances of McCain’s repeated use of false claims and lies and one instance Decker is able to dig up of an Obama campaign claim that arguably leaves out some information.

But the conclusion and packaging of the article is that both candidates deceive equally and that they do so because it works. (There was another example, though not quite as egregious, by Jonathan Weismann last week in the Post.)

We hear a lot about the steep and perhaps terminal decline of the business model underlying daily print newspapers. But this corruption in the basic conception of the craft — which is actually related to the economic decline — gets discussed much less.

This is what gives liars a clear strategic advantage over non-liars. And it’s an open question whether McCain’s level of dishonesty turns out to be so great that it overwhelms reporters’ unwillingness to report accurately on it.

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