- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2000

How large is that 'gap' between journalists and readers?

The March 29 article "Editor's study finds elitist 'gap' between journalists, readers" explains how the "political correctness" we find so often in the mainstream media is able to flourish. The study by the Orlando Sentinel's Peter Brown demonstrates that there is no interaction between journalists and their audience, based on where the two populations live. Without that kind of contact, there is no real cross-pollination of ideas between the two groups. These journalists are out of touch with the general public. They live in their ivory tower, looking down on how their readership views the world.

This study should make the nation's editors in chief take note. If their readers feel that their local papers are not telling them the full story or not even covering stories potentially of interest to them they will turn elsewhere for their news. Auto manufacturers routinely survey potential car buyers to find out what their customers want; they know consumers will choose another company's vehicle if they don't appeal to consumers' tastes. Similarly, if papers don't change their ways, that will spell financial problems for well-heeled journalists.

Already the Internet offers untold numbers of news sites, available at the click of a button at no cost to the reader. Many of them feature news stories not often found in traditional newspapers, and these cyber-magazines continue to get more and more hits every day. On the Internet, average Americans are finding reporting that is consistent with their values.

This trend illustrates how many people are trying to escape the media culture bias Mr. Brown encountered in his study. Americans also are rejecting the hostile culture in other sectors of society. Instead of complaining about failing, politically correct public schools, thousands upon thousands of families across America decided to pull their children out and educate them at home. Internet news Web sites and home-schooling are both examples of people creating alternative institutions apart from this hostile culture. Much more of this will take place in the future as mainstream Americans continue to declare their independence from the hostile culture.

Mr. Brown has verified a truth that many have long known about our culture's politically correct elitist class. His discovery will no doubt prove to be merely the tip of the iceberg.

ROBERT MCFARLAND

Spokesman

Free Congress Foundation

Washington

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I read with interest your story on Peter Brown's study and findings about journalists. I agree it is important to be a careful consumer of news and to consider the source, whether an individual or a news organization. However, the traits of journalists depicted by Mr. Brown do not coincide with my life as a staff writer at a trade publication or with the lifestyles of other journalists I know.

Ironically, I work for a magazine with an extremely elite demographic profile. The magazine is geared toward breeders, owners and other members of the Thoroughbred industry. These folks are off the charts in terms of annual income, property amassed and buying power. In this respect, they are not "normal" people.

On the other hand, at 27, with four years at my current position, I make a tad more than the average for young journalists. I attend church at least once a week. I am involved in community service on an ongoing basis. I do not get Rolling Stone, pay $100 for jeans or smoke marijuana. I live in an apartment surrounded by college students and working parents in a suburban setting. I would consider my life relatively "normal," but in an era when uniqueness and diversity are applauded and encouraged, how will Mr. Brown describe his "normal" control group for his still-unpublished book? Don't get me wrong I would not argue with anyone offering me $50,000 to do my job, or a home in an "elite neighborhood," but alternately, I do not aspire to live in a "cluster" with "shotguns" among the descriptors. Among "normal" people, who would? (However, as a Kentucky resident, I do occasionally consume bourbon, and Wheaties appears still to be an acceptable morning meal.)

Perhaps in another 20 years I will be closer to Mr. Brown's findings perhaps not. Either way, I would be more than happy to supply him with the names and numbers of journalists I know and work with who would be happy to even out his results in time for inclusion in his book. Under the broad umbrella of "media" we get a bad enough rap: Let's not support these results as the "norm."

KRISTIN J. INGWELL

Lexington, Ky.

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The Times article on the gap between editors and readers ended with a quote from Bill Kovach, curator for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism: " 'More and more, journalists are part of the elite, socially and economically, of the country,' he told Editor & Publisher magazine last month. 'That gap between them and the mass of citizens who rely on them and depend on them makes you nervous.' "

What should make readers nervous is that they rely on journalists rather than themselves for the interpretation of news. Such paucity of philosophical foundation as exists affects both journalists and readers. Both are victims of contemporary education, and I lay all blame at the feet of academia.

Show me a school that teaches its students how we know what we know and how to use that information to live a life worth living, and I will leave my modest estate to it. It remains for us to use our far superior abilities to learn to enjoy life in a fittingly human way. Trusting others with opinion-making is not only counterproductive, but oxymoronic.

EMERY REIFF

Sonora, Calif.

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In regard to "Editor's study finds elitist 'gap' between journalists, readers," I find that the survey conducted by Peter Brown has confirmed my 25-year suspicion that the overwhelming majority of journalists are not mainstream Americans but see themselves as superior to the rest of American society. This is reflected by their personal lifestyles.

They seem to reek of condescending attitudes, inflated egos and the rejection of the middle class (bourgeoisie). It appears that the major print media, much like academia, are still beholden to elitist politics that the people do not share.

Does this not mean that journalists are more accurately described as propagandists, rather than as news reporters?

WILLIAM COOPER

Woodstock, Ga.

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