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Friday, July 28, 2006

Unchecked and Unbalanced

Paul Krugman follows up today's column in "Unchecked and Unbalanced" from Money Talks:

Markus Hofmann, Los Angeles: The health of a democracy is dependent upon an educated and accurately informed citizenry. It is the responsibility of citizens to inform and educate themselves about the issues that affect their community, their government and their personal interests. To the extent that they fail to fulfill this responsibility, they undermine the integrity of this form of government. The Bush administration has had a willing partner ready to consume its propaganda campaign: the naive, ill-informed citizenry of this nation. In a democracy people get the government they deserve.

Paul Krugman: I really don't think that's fair — or maybe the point is that it demands an unattainable standard. Most people have lives to live, jobs to do, children to raise. They don't have time to do careful news analysis.

This gets to a pet gripe of mine about a lot of news reports these days. All too often, pieces seem to be written in a kind of code: if you read them very, very carefully, they're devastating critiques of current policy, so that reporters and editors can claim that they kept the public informed, but readers who don't approach the stories with a magnifying glass never even realize that the critique is there.

Right now we're getting a crop of tell-all books by reporters who were in Iraq during the first year of the occupation about what they saw there — books like Tom Ricks's "Fiasco" and Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” (Chandrasekaran's book isn't out yet, but I have an advance copy.) These books show that the crucial first year in Iraq was marked by incredible corruption and incompetence — I'm as cynical as they come, yet the stories in "Imperial Life" show that I haven't been cynical enough. But where was the reporting on all that when it was actually happening — and when an accurate picture of the shambles in Iraq might, say, have dented Bush's reputation as an effective leader before the 2004 election? Well, it was delicately hinted at in the reporting, but no more.

    Posted by on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 02:13 PM in Economics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (15)

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