- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

The dumbing down of America is most evident in what we are being fed by the mainstream media. A recent study informs us that coverage of celebrities, entertainment and scandal is much more prevalent than coverage of government and foreign affairs. It doesn't take a lot of research to determine that the American public is more interested in the kind of news surrounding the O.J. trial or the recent Elian circus in Miami than in national or international events.

Stories relating to government and foreign affairs fall way down on the list. There are actually media-ethics panels looking into the slipping of journalistic standards. Right now, media ethics are on about the same level as congressional ethics. As long as the media cater to the lowest common denominator, things are not going to change. Profit is what counts in the news industry. News is a business just like any other business, and it's the bottom line, not the product, that counts.

Anyone who thinks that our nightly news anchormen determine what is to be reported and what is to be left in the “In” basket is suffering from news naivete. While it may not be fair to say the news is slanted, it's certainly fair to say that what you see and read is not necessarily the “big” story. The “big” story may be about a boring topic, such as Social Security, and the only way to make it interesting is to scare us into thinking that the end is near, which of course, it isn't.

The study points out that the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal had more coverage at times than the U.S.-Iraqi showdown. This is not only unethical but downright irresponsible. What has happened is the once-proud news media have become slightly upscale imitations of the National Enquirer. We all know how they botched the results of the last election. As if that weren't bad enough, they continue to inform us of every move Sen. Clinton makes, not because it's news, but because they want her to run for president.

I suppose when a newspaper prints an editorial telling us how we should vote, they do so because they have given us very little information concerning the election on the front page. I always thought that newspaper editorials should be looked at much like we look at an advertisement for used cars. When the media give the death of Princess Di 20 times the coverage as the theft of a laptop computer full of our classified State Department secrets, they have sold out.

Television gives us instant news, and as a result, the print media must re-report the same story the next day. This may be why scandals and sex take priority over government and world affairs. Most of the reporters who win Pulitzer Prizes have written articles that very few of us have ever seen or heard about. There are no more Woodwards and Bernsteins. Let's hope that the standards are raised soon. As it stands now, “media ethics” is an oxymoron.



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