Every day, I read the news, watch the news, listen to the news, and I try to get news from a variety of sources so that I get a good cross sample of what's going on. I read the traditional sources, the newcomers; the liberal, the conservative; the sane, the not-so-much; the rational, and the irrational. I've always felt, about a great many things, that the truth isn't sequestered on the extreme, but exists somewhere in the logical center.
Increasingly, I find the logical center harder to find. Or more correctly said, harder to define. The lines get blurred and the small, hard center of truth which once existed has now become a large, fuzzy bullseye with annular rings of varying truth-saturation. One journalist might sound sane until you get right to the end of the article, then he blows it with an off-the-deep-end assessment or prognostication. Some are just bat-shit crazy, and for the instant recognition of that their writing brings, we thank them.
It's those who are 95% right, and 5% crazy old cat lady unbalanced that concern me most. Because they SOUND like they're making sense; I mean, the first 1950 words of their columns will be dead-on accurate, but suddenly Pee Wee Herman channeling L. Ron Hubbard takes over and the reason we have 10% unemployment is that aliens are informing the current administration's economic policy.
Um...whiskey tango foxtrot, over?
The truth is always being means-tested by various organizations. Manufacturers claims get tested by organizations like Consumers Union and Underwriters Laboratories. Food producers face the truth test via the USDA; drug makers by the FDA. Boeing and Airbus must run their truths through the Danger Zone at the behest of the FAA, and for politics we have PolitiFact and FactCheck. Snopes.com puts urban myths' feet to the fire and all of the above deserve our thanks when they do their jobs right.
But where's the Gong Show for journalism? Yes, there's the Peabody awards and the Pulitzer, but those look to find the apex of reporting and writing, not the bottom dwellers. We need a cable show along the lines of Hillbilly Hand Fishing that sticks its varied and sundry appendages into the dark, muddy recesses of reporting, pulls out the 250-pound shitsucker, and throws him on the bank for the blistering light of public scrutiny to wither to jerky.
There needs to be a highly visible public panel or discussion group or such - I'm thinking McLoughlin Group as the paradigm - where the dirtbags who soil our bandwidth get called to Jesus for an On-Air behind-the-woodshed dressing down when they fuck up. A Tim Russert-sort, beaming from ear to ear, to put them in an electronic full-nelson and give them noogies until they 'fess up would be my go-to guy as moderator. Air it on Sundays along with the other political magazines and make it high profile. Drag the bastards through the same mud they ooze onto otherwise inoffensive media and castigate the liars publicly.
Hell, it might even draw ratings, who knows?
Update: In a moment of rare mental clarity, I had an epiphany. Matt Taibbi for moderator. If anybody can spot a canard in the coal mine of journalism, it's him.