IN THE MEDIA, we do love a trend. If one doesn’t exist, in fact, we’ll make it up. Two observable instances will suffice for the ruling of the requisite connecting line. Two celebrities seen drinking tea – it’s teamania! Two movies about deaf people – it’s the deaf craze! Particularly popular are those that resonate with the wistful hankerings of baby boomer bosses. The miniskirt is back! T-shirts with slogans are hot! It’s here, it’s happening: it’s the anti-war movement!
Consider, however, two parallel phenomena where the media themselves are concerned. Trend one: the public’s growing contempt for journalists – as the choleric British cabinet minister Alan Clark called us recently “fellows with, in the main, squalid and unfulfilling private lives, insecure in their careers, and suffering a considerable degree of dependence on alcohol and narcotics”. A striking aspect of last year’s saga of The New York Times‘s Jayson Blair – on whom Clark’s description fitted snugly – was how little his fabulations seemed to matter to its consumers. “The scariest part was that the people we lied about didn’t bother to call,” agreed the Times‘s venerable publisher Arthur Sulzberger jnr, “because they just assumed that’s the way newspapers worked.”
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