Is there any hope for civilization without rhetorical standards for journalism?

Yesterday there was a story that was covered all over the place (Reddit, Wall Street Journal, American Spectator) that stated that Seymour Hersh implicated Dick Cheney in an assasination plot that former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

I didn't even bother to click thru the links because the source was a newspaper in Pakistan, a country well-known for producing journalists who employ J. L. Austin's idea of performative utterances to make fantasy reality.

Did anyone who passed along this story bother to ask the source of the story to confirm it's veracity? Apparently not. This post on RAW STORY reveals the shameful state of journalism today: http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/05/18/hersh-did-not-say-cheney-ordered-...

I guess I'm just feeling cranky about this: mainstream media is doomed (for me at least) unless it provides value beyond simply parroting statements made by seemingly authoritative sources. Bloggers and ideologues can do that just fine thank you. If I want conspiracy theories all I have to do is go to reddit or Digg and believe what I read on the front page, and allow "zionistconspiracyrulesall" to shape my neurospace.

If journalists are going to keep the industry that funds their work alive, they're going to have to do better, fast. My morning current affairs stream looks like:

-Yahoo! News!
-Helena Independent Record
-Raw Story
-Reddit (200 stories scanned)
-NYTimes
....then the Washington Post, Digg (200 stories scanned), SF Chronicle, LA Times, and misc blogs if there's time.

From this list, I get a pretty good overview of world, national, local political, cultural, national security, business, economic, science, and technology news, plus get a smattering of language and perception trends. I read a lot of news daily, and I suspect I've developed some cognitive tools that let me segregate the signal from the noise. But it's not my job, not my profession, just something necessary to keep from going crazy. I expect higher standards from people who are paid to to gather and report news.

Maybe study of J. L. Austen's "How to do things with words" (plus a course in classical rhetoric and logic) should be required for all journalists, with test to follow. Otherwise, no press card.

Tags: