Equality Rides with (Washington Post) Style

cbc 021You may wonder, in a few seconds, where this post is going and why it features photographs from recent Soulforce Equality Ride events. Hang in there with me. I have my reasons.

But first I want to start with a very honest private letter from a GetReligion reader named Tim J. It touches several bases and deserves to be read. Please note that I have added some of my own links in his text, as a way of starting the dialogue:

Reading your recent “guilt” entry, I was reminded again of how you struggle to remind people that this blog is about media reporting on religion, while so many of your readers (including myself) are more interested in the religion stories themselves. I think I know the reason: Conservatives of my generation tend to take it as axiomatic that not only is the media liberal, it is irredeemably so. I read Shaw’s abortion bias series from 1990 and look at the situation two decades later and don’t see any progress. Between that and Linda Greenhouse, I would actually rather (and in fact do) read Daily Kos than CBS, if only because it doesn’t insult me by pretending to be objective.

I don’t even view this as any sort of great liberal conspiracy. I just think that media men are so surrounded by people of like opinions that they’re not even aware that these views are not necessarily normative. More damningly, though, I don’t think they’re even interested in expanding their horizons enough to understand where conservatives are coming from. I think that I’m not the only who feels that the only way we’ll get a fair shake is when the traditional media is discredited enough that people don’t listen to it anymore.

I think it’s pretty plain that you are not of that opinion, and you want to fix the system instead of tossing it out for a new one. So here is an entry I would very much like to see you write: what are your reasons for hoping that things will change? What positive steps have you seen media outlets taking to correct their ingrained liberal culture? What’s the good news?

So, Tim, if you chase even half of those links you’ll know a lot more about where I am coming from. You should also read a book chapter that I wrote on this subject, the original title of which was “Journalism strategies in a hostile marketplace.”

I would love to write a book on this topic someday (Proposed title: Why God Loves Journalists: And Why Too Many Christians Do Not). I think the key is that people keep tossing the “objectivity” bomb back and forth at one another. Many conservatives — secular and religious — are much too quick to throw in the intellectual towel and flee into the safe niches of European-style publications of news and opinion that preach to their various choirs. Meanwhile, there are voices on the left that are beginning to say that, yes indeed, there are in fact issues in which the debate is over and there is no need to quote voices on the opposite side of some of America’s hottest cultural debates.

But let’s not talk about the left, right now. There are plenty of people working in our best newspapers and magazines who are still committed to the basic values of what history books often call the “American model of the press.” The key is not whether individual people — left or right — can unplug their brains and somehow be “objective.” The issue here is whether we will have newsrooms that contain enough intellectural and cultural diversity to be fair and accurate when it comes time to cover stories rooted in hot, divisive questions about religion, morality and culture. Thus, that book chapter ends with this challenge for conservatives who, at the moment, are just as in love with “European” journalism as, well, Greenhouse seems to be.

You know things are messed up when conservatives start playing the “Golly, things are better in Europe” card.

Here’s the bottom line: I am convinced that the critics of mainstream journalism are doing little or nothing to improve mainstream journalism.

Will business leaders, politicos, philanthropists, religious leaders, educators, think-tank directors, denominational bureaucrats and others who shape opinions and life in moral and culturally conservative circles make attempts to interact with and critique the mainstream press, rather than merely blasting away in bitter shouting matches? Will they realize that the power of the press is built into the very foundations of America’s public life and, thus, is worthy of respect, if not admiration?

You see, how we answer these questions depends on the ultimate goal. It depends on whether the goal is to compete in the marketplace of American journalism or to avoid it, to take part in its debates or to flee to safer ground. How we answer these questions also depends on whether or not we believe that the craft of journalism truly matters.

No one needs to deny that there are major problems in the marketplace of American journalism. Journalistic standards of fairness, balance and even accuracy are under attack — from the left and from the right. But I, for one, am not willing to say that the journalistic canons are no longer relevant. I am not willing to say that it is time to give up on the American model of journalism. And it is impossible to accuse the news media elites of journalistic heresies if we, too, are journalistic heretics.

So why be optimistic, in an age in which digital technologies and the Web make it easier and easier for the advocates of advocacy journalism to put their views in print?

dordt2For starters, this digital revolution is not bad. All kinds of people, coming from a wide variety of worldviews, are getting to serve as unofficial “reader’s representatives” these days. Amen. I think this is forcing editors and publishers to listen — whether they want to or not — to a wider spectrum of their customers and/or critics. GetReligion, obviously, is one such weblog, with our own traditional-faith yet pro-journalism perspective. No one here is opposed to The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, World, Salon or publications of their ilk. The question is what happens to the mainstream.

And right now, the mainstream is nervous.

Cable news is slicing and dicing the broadcast audience. Local newspaper circulation numbers are declining to the point that some people are talking about readers — as in people who read news at all — becoming a “niche” in the general public. Comedy Central is a news channel, all of a sudden. Katie Couric is the face of CBS Evening News. Is that where we want to go with public discourse in this nation? Do we want the journalistic mainstream to embrace the European model in city after city and in our national news outlets? Or do we want to make an economic and intellectual case, one rooted in respect — not hatred — for the press and basic journalism?

I know it is frustrating to pick up great newspapers and see great examples of classic, accurate, balanced American journalism printed on the same page as one-sided works of European, advocacy journalism. These are confusing times.

If you don’t believe me, consider two very different stories in The Washington Post, one printed in the news pages and the other in the rather New Journalism, European environment of the Style section. I don’t want to get into too many details here, because the organization at which I teach — the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities — is deeply involved in the entire Equality Ride story. This is why the only Scripps Howard column I have written on this topic was a narrowly focused piece on the Rev. Mel White of Soulforce (I have known him since his ghostwriter days) and his articulate views on free speech.

First read the original news piece from last year, when the Soulforce leaders met with the CCCU. Note the headline: “A Drive for Understanding — Gays, Colleges Hope Tour Helps Dispel Mutual Stereotypes.”

Now read the Style piece from last week, when the Equality Riders came to Patrick Henry College (which is not a member of the CCCU) in Northern Virginia. Note the headline: “Young, Gay Christians, On a Bumpy Bus Ride — At Evangelical College, Protesters Target Culture That Excludes Them.”

Read the two stories then ask yourself a basic question: Would the people covered in both of these stories recognize their own words, their own beliefs in these texts? Would they say that their points of view were shown respect? Would people on both sides say that these stories were complete, that articulate voices on both sides were allowed to share information? Do the facts ring true? Would people on both sides say that both stories were balanced and accurate?

Read these two stories, taken from the same newspaper.

So which form of journalism do you want to advocate in the mainstream, in the dominate providers of news and information in our culture? Which model do you want to praise? To support? To encourage mainstream journalists to use as best they can?

Photos from Equality Ride 2007.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://insidesocal.com/godblog Brad A. Greenberg

    When I read the Style piece about Soulforce, I was struck by how little mind was given the equality riders’ theology, and that of the Patrick Henry kids. In fact, the story reduced a major breaking point in the modern church to: These people are gay and those people say they’re going to hell.

  • Michael

    Are you suggesting that we can’t have two styles of journalism: news and feature. I don’t think readers are nearly as confused as you think they are when they pick up an article that is in a “style” section surrounded by comics, Dear Amy, and gossip. They realize it isn’t “news” and that they article is going to have a different tone.

    I don’t expect or want the same style of writing I find in the Metro section as what I find in style. There is room for both kinds. Just as there is room for analysis and biased commentary, like the kind you do. Readers are a lot smarter then we give them credit for.

    I think electronic editions do create challenges because people arrive at stories from different locations. They may go to the paper’s website, they may have had it sent from a friend, or they may have found it through an ideologically-driven blog. But I don’t think that requires that everything reads like an AP wire story or that there isn’t room for a breezier, non-news style in different parts of the newspaper.

  • Eric W

    Part of the problem with the Patrick Henry story is that it deals with a subset of evangelicals who themselves aren’t typical, and it would probably be difficult to make those students look “normal.” That said, though, it doesn’t appear that the writer made any real effort to find out what Patrick Henry students think. I can’t imagine it would have been that difficult for the reporter to call the school’s PR office and ask for a meeting with half a dozen students or so, or perhaps with some faculty members or administrators. But nothing like that appears to have been done. It seems obvious that the reporter feels more comfortable dealing with the Soulforce people than with the college students (who in all probability are interesting young adults).

    Another story to look at is this one from the Seattle P-I. This story does seem reasonably balanced, but it is incredibly incomplete. There are theological questions raised to both sides, but both sides’ answers aren’t given. As a reader (and as someone who has had connections with that particular university), I find the story frustrating.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    I know the difference between features and news.

    “Feature” does not automatically equal advocacy, as you can see in numerous stories week after week in the likes of the Atlantic, The New Yorker, etc.

    I also know that you think this Style story is fine. I know there is no chance in hades that will will see eye to eye on this essential journalistic division.


  • Dan

    It is inherently difficult — arguably impossible — to report fairly on issues with regard to which there is a divide that is created by two fundamentally different and incompatible worldviews. In such cases every reporter has one worldview or the other. Can the reporter empathize with (or even understand) the other worldview sufficiently to report on it fairly? How would any of us do if we were transported back in time to 1859 and asked to report on the slavery debate. Would any of us write articles that satisfied southerners?

    I know from experience that, consistent with what Tim J. is saying, some liberals cannot even conceive of the religious understanding of the world. I know because I used to be one of those liberals. Before my reversion to the Church, I agreed with most of the things written on the op ed page of the New York Times and I simply could not understand why it upset conservatives. Now I know.

  • Dan

    So where I come out on the question of whether there can be a sort of mainstream consensus journalism about the culture war is that no, it is close to impossible, because the divide is too deep.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    So you are theologically opposed to journalism?

    But here is the main question, before we move on: DID YOU READ the two Washington Post stories to which I linked?

    You PREFER the Style approach?

  • Dan

    tmatt, you are right that my comments were not directed at the particular two pieces to which you linked but they are no less applicable to those pieces. My point was that given the depth of the divide of the culture war — whether on the left or on the right — it is simply not realistic to think that there is going to be a consensus journalism. The reason is that the divide goes so deep that neither side really respects the other. The committed pro-lifer cannot give credence in his or her heart to the pro-choicer and does not respect their position intellectually, and vice versa. It’s not impossible to feign respect where it doesn’t exist, but it’s not realistic to think that consensus journalism is going to done based on feigned respect. Hanna Rosin and the many like her in your business no doubt think that orthodox Christianity, like southern slavery in the 1850s, is headed for the dustbin of history. Given that, how can there be a consensus journalism? Should Hanna Rosin be fired or otherwise barred from writing the things she does?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    Who in the world thinks there should be “a consensus journalism.” Are you saying that people cannot accurately cover and paraphrase views other than their own?

    Did you read BOTH stories to which I linked? Yes or no.

    And you still prefer the journalistic approach practices in the Style article?

    You are, at the moment, saying that you are opposed to basic journalism and that you prefer the methodology used in the Style piece. You simple want a conservative version of it. Correct?

  • Jerry

    some liberals cannot even conceive of the religious understanding of the world.

    And some conservatives cannot even conceive that some liberals are religious.

    That is a classic example of part of the problem. The entire meaning shifts significantly with one word: some. I first read that sentence, took umbrage and then reread it and noticed some at which point I thought, yes that’s true. But to be balanced, it’s true in the other direction as well.

    After participating in this blog, I’m starting to believe that having a story that most will agree is balanced is like negotiating a treaty between North Korea and the US: very hard if not impossible. Having a media which too often feeds on sensationalism the way sharks have a feeding frenzy contributes to having everyone feel their side was misrepresented. I suspect everyone is right. Showing nuances and areas of agreement amongst various groups on an issue is not to the economic benefit of the media. Discussing how there are more than two points-of-view on a topic is antithetical to those who want to paint situations as starkly good versus evil.

    Add in a healthy dose of ignorance and you get the media not getting religion.

  • Martha

    I’m afraid I think the situation will only get worse before it gets better: with everyone retreating into their own little niche market, tailoring their ‘product’ to the demographics, and competing for the splintered market that you describe.

    And that applies to both right/left, conservative/liberal, orthodox/progressive or whatever other ways one uses to describe the split.

  • Dan

    tmatt, yes I read both and I’ve read many, many similar things over the years as we all have. The difference between us does not owe to me missing any details in one or both of the pieces. It boils down to the question of to what degree can one expect journalism to be objective. My answer is that it is important for journalists to strive to be objective but that on hot button issues that go deep it is nearly impossible to eliminate bias because no one ever can describe someone else’s view point as well as one can describe one’s own. This problem is exacerbated on the hot button issues since there are many who do not credit opposing viewpoints with even basic legitimacy. I know many people who express toward Christians the sort of attitude that comes through in the Rosin piece. I’m not going to turn to those people to get a fair report on what is going on in Christian institutions. We see this very clearly in the reporting on Pope Benedict. I have not seen one mainstream press article that gives a fair summary of the Pope’s views on issues of general interest, such as the relation between faith and reason. I do not however think this is the result of some anti-Catholic conspiracy. Rather, I think it is because the views of the Pope are so foreign to secular journalists that they just don’t understand them. So it is with reporting by liberals on conservative Christians. So in answer to your question, no I don’t think “basic journalism” is possible on the hot button issues that divide our society if by “basic journalism” you mean journalism in which bias and total failure to understand do not shine through. Is it possible to write journalism that is more sympathetic to Christians than the Rosin piece? Probably not, if the people writing the journalism hold the views of people like Rosin. I would bet that the reason that Rosin did not do a better job of reporting on the Christian viewpoint is that she simply does not understand that viewpoint, it does not compute for her.

    By the way you have this same issue with history. The British historian E.H. Carr advises that one always take into account who the historian is when reading a history book because a history book always says as much about the historian as it does about the events being described. So it is with journalism.

  • Dan

    “Many conservatives — secular and religious — are much too quick to throw in the intellectual towel and flee into the safe niches of European-style publications of news and opinion that preach to their various choirs.”

    Who’s throwing in the towel? Conservatives read these “European-syle” publications to get what they are not getting elsewhere. This however is not to the exclusion of what they are getting inundated with in the mainstream press. I read various Catholic and conservative publications but that does not mean I don’t read the New York Times and Harpers also. It seems to me that liberals are much less exposed to conservative ideas then the other way around. How many liberals who read The New York Times and Harpers read First Things, Commentary or National Review?

  • Jerry

    It seems to me that liberals are much less exposed to conservative ideas then the other way around.

    What evidence can you produce for that assertion?

  • Dan

    Doesn’t it stand to reason? If the speciality publications are generally read only by their own kind and the mainstream press is generally liberal, conservatives get the liberal ideas through the mainstream press but there is no counterpart by which liberals are equally exposed to conservative ideas. I think this is more the situation with social issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) then with economic issues. On the latter set of issues, it seems to me that conservative ideas do get aired in the mainstream press.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    One more time. Focus. We affirm the work of journals of news and opinion. Hurrah for them.

    We’re talking about strategies in the mainstream. We are talking about public discourse in the United States.

    So you are saying that you actually prefer the mainstream media using the European approach of the Style piece (leave personalities out of this), as opposed to the 2006 piece in the news pages and the American model of the press?

    You would want the mainstream to adopt the Style approach, as opposed to helping work to add diversity and call the MSM to attempt the American model?

    You WANT the European approach in our major media institutions? On a theological level, you are saying that the American approach is, well, more FALLEN, than the European approach?

  • Dan

    Query: is the Boorstein piece more objective than the Rosin piece or just more centrist?

    “So you are saying that you actually prefer the mainstream media using the European approach of the Style piece (leave personalities out of this), as opposed to the 2006 piece in the news pages and the American model of the press?”

    Yes, given the realistic possibilities. The mainstream press is never, ever going to report fairly on the Catholic Church, and so I take offense at the notion that its reporting is “mainstream” or objective. I agree with Tim J. that “Between [all the biased reporting on abortion] and Linda Greenhouse, I would actually rather … read Daily Kos than CBS, if only because it doesn’t insult me by pretending to be objective.” The domination of newrooms by reporters who just cannot understand the pro-life movement, Pope Benedict, etc. is a reality that is not going to change.

    Is not the proof of the possibilities in the pudding? The New York Times reads like a speciality publication for the gay rights movement. Presumably this is not for lack of professionalism or training in the ethics of journalism. I am not in your business, but I presume it is constantly drilled into professional journalists that you are supposed to be fair and air both sides of a story. Yet here we are, after decades of complaints, with The New York Times (which is regarded as the best newspaper in the United States, is it not?) reporting the way it does. If this is what reigning theories of objectivity produce, it is time to stop pretending and simply label papers by their political affiliations as is done in Europe.

    This rupture is as deep and unbridgeable as it is because of the profoundity of the rupture that is at the heart of the culture war. Yes, it does happen, unfortunately, that people lose the ability to speak to each other about some things. I don’t want to exagerate the problem. But it is serious enough to make me think that there is no hope that the mainstream press will ever be able to speak to me about Christianity.

  • Dan

    I should amend that last sentence to read “in a consistently reliable way about Christianity.”

  • Scott Allen

    TMATT, the reality is that the American approach will soon be dead. I, for one, used to watch every network news show I could. I read TIME starting in 7th grade through my late 20s. I stopped in the mid-1990s because I simply stopped learning any facts from these sources.

    This was pre-Internet.

    Now, with both the Internet and Cable, people will focus in on subjects of interest. All this talk about what the “approach” should be is silly. The market is going to rule the day, period, and people are going to go to sources that they believe provide new information or present it in an entertaining (that most often means favorable) fashion.

    It’s the EBaying of Information. People will be matched up with items that meet their needs. You love the Crunchy Conservative idiot. You run Getreligion. You are on board the train already. Again, arguing about the pro’s and con’s is a waste of bytes.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Scott and Dan:

    Well you are mostly wrong, based on my work. And hundreds or thousands of Christians who work in the mainstream media would agree with me.

    You already know that I agree with you on the WWW’s impact on niche media. I agree that process cannot be stopped.

    However, the other trend is global and national — global news networks and national newspapers.

    You are saying that you believe it is impossible for diversity to make those networks more fair and accurate — even as the leaders of some of them say that they know they are in trouble on that score and must improve or lose money and market share. Read the Bill Keller memos. Note the growing role of global wire services.

    I do not share your theological point of view that mainstream media are, as a given, more theologically fallen than specialty papers. I do not thing that the newspapers of Britain and Europe are superior to our’s, even in the current conditions. Like I said, when conservatives start praising Europe, I get confused.

    Anyone who cannot see the difference between, oh, a Stephanie Simon and a Linda Greenhouse, between a Peter Boyer and a Frank Rich has simply written off the role of the press in the public square.

    Good journalism exists. Good American model journalism can be done.

    Again, mainstream journalism will be improved by people who love journalism, not people who hate it.

  • Jerry

    the mainstream press is generally liberal,

    It’s true that more Republicans than Democrats think the media is biased, at least as measured by the survey http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=248. And although the article has been dinged for not citing sources sufficiently, Wikipedia has what I found to be an interesting review of media bias stories. I personally don’t think it’s liberal versus conservative but it depends on what the issue is. I could be wrong, but I think this is accurate:
    Their study concluded that a majority of journalists, although relatively liberal on social policies, were significantly to the right of the public on economic, labor, health care and foreign policy issues.

  • Robbie

    First, I’ll openly confess to having no right to comment, having not yet read the Wash. Post articles and having mainly skimmed the comments. I plead fatigue: Though I didn’t work directly with anything concerning the shooting, having such a major story in the A section of the paper leads to a rather long night for even this Midwestern nightside designer. I didn’t even get my usual lag times to catch up on GetReligion! (Hence, also, the reason for commenting after this horse has likely been quite well beaten…)

    So, some thoughts on the general topic of mainstream journalists and bias:

    – It’s likely no surprise that I’ll defend the U.S. press. I believe the public is best informed by a press that at least seeks to be impartial observers and investigators. Seeking is not the same as achieving this, of course, but trying to do so will at least get one closer to the goal than not trying at all.

    – I do believe that many in the “elite” media tend to be more secular and liberal (as a disclaimer, I tend to be conservative/libertarian and religious), but it should be noted that research on this is not absolute. Lichter’s “The Media Elite” (1986) formed a basis for criticizing media as liberal, especially on moral issues. But a study by Weaver and Wilhoit (1986) had a profile of journalists as largely subscribing to religions. My belief is that journalists by and large might subscribe more to the moral tenets of some mainstream denominations, rather than to what might be called more “evangelical” tenets (which would support the call for more diversity in newsrooms). I tried looking at this through a very small study when I was in grad school, but ended up with a rather small response rate (about 6%, darnit) and unsubstantiated results. Still, the religious demographics of journalists is an interesting area, and not as cut-and-dry as some might think.

    – The call for more diversity can risk undermining a more basic belief I hold, though: I believe that impartiality is, to an extent at least, available to an individual journalist. For me, that’s what professionalism is. A doctor is expected to treat all with care, regardless of whether he agrees with their politics. A defense lawyer is expected to defend his client, even if he thinks he’s guilty. So I think one can also expect a journalist to examine and observe current affairs, even if he doesn’t agree with those affairs.

    – I’m afraid this professionalism is under attack on many sides. As is clear from the comments on this post, there are many who doubt whether it exists. There’s also the problem that some might only want to read stories with which they fully agree. The managing corporations, seeing this, get tempted to produce media outlets that appeal to this desire: hence the growing tendencies of talking heads on Fox to (in my opinion) pander to the right, and of talking heads on CNN to (in my opinion) pander to the left. Doing that is also easier and thus cheaper, as many more people could likely be found to give commentary, whereas fewer might be found to really seek impartiality.

    Academia also is leaning more toward this, perhaps allured by the idea that European concepts are more intellectual, perhaps by theories such as created realities that would seem to discount a central and impartial reality, perhaps by the idea that any attempt at asserting professionality is somehow elitist and, therefore, bad.

    – Though I support the mainstream press, I do believe there are some biases. As a result, I think the press tends to be unfair to those of faith. I have no research to back this up, but I think these biases are:

    1) EMPIRICISM: Empiricism is valuable in many ways. You don’t want to just trust the mayor on where your taxes are going, for instance. But taken to its extreme, a bias towards empiricism discounts anything supernatural, divine or not scientifically provable. For these, or for any matter involving opinions or beliefs, one needs to be a child of the humanities, and not just the sciences — focus on the ideas and the beliefs, understand them as things of value in and of themselves. Only by accepting the limits of empiricism can one really discover the ability to understand faith, which is what a reporter should seek to do.

    This is also true, incidentally, in the academic side of journalism, where it often seems that the social scientists have ruled the world of media studies, to the detriment of those of us who are into ideas more than numbers. (And yes, that was a cheap shot at the social scientists…)

    2.) EGALITARIANISM: Like empiricism, egalitarianism is often a very good thing — it ensures that we don’t just interview elites. But taken too far, an egalitarian bias becomes a belief that everyone must be right. So when confronted by a faith that might not say that everyone is right, a hyper-egalitarian is inclined to discount it as elitist, snobbish or shallow. I think it would be better to focus on libreal democracy as the guide to journalism, rathre than egalitarianism: Everyone is equal in rights, which means that people have the right to say that others aren’t necessarily right.

    3.) ICONOCLASM: Again, it’s often good in journalism to question authorities. If your mother says she loves you, look it up. But taken too far, this can lead one to discount anyone who really does believe that his mother loves him — or who really believes that God loves him. As with empricism, this anti-establishment tendency should be used with the recognition that it has its limits, or at least that not everyone shares it in all cases.

    But again, just to be clear: Asserting these biases doesn’t discount the role of the press or require a new theory of press, but rather works within the existing theory of the American press to help fulfill its mission. In essence, as has been noted before, it’s just part of being a better juornalist.

    And it’s now almost 5 a.m. here, so I should finally get to bed, I guess…

  • Dennis Colby

    My bias is always toward traditional American journalism – which, incidentally, has always acknowledged that objectivity is an unattainable goal that people should be striving for, kind of like Sisyphus and his rock.

    There are people who hate journalism and who are hoping the Internet will kill it off. The idea here is that the NY Times will be replaced by Daily Kos on one hand and Little Green Footballs on the other (not that either blog does much in the way of, you know, original reporting). Ultimately, this is a kind of vulgar postmodernism: everyone gets to create their own little bubble of subjective information, without having to worry about pesky little things like “facts” or “reality.”

    Personally, I think this brave new world probably won’t come to pass. Traditional American media outlets have something their scrappy blog critics don’t have: credibility. Ultimately, that’s going to be their most valuable asset in the changing media environment.

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