Arianna Huffington gets it wrong

I’m a great admirer of The Huffington Post, but not always of its founder and her views of life. Arianna got it really wrong this weekend in an interview with the LATimes. Now, I’m willing to let others be wrong (after all, I need to be able to let myself be wrong, too), but this one is really a biggie.

Now that the Bush administration is closing up shop, do you think that the hatred of the media that they’ve inflamed will finally cool?

I don’t really think it’s the Bush administration that’s fueled the hatred of the media. I think it was the media’s complicity in the lead-up to the war in Iraq that has been one of the darkest moments of American media — and that helped fuel a lot of the dissatisfaction with the traditional media.

Penalty flag.

She’s right that the press needs a smackdown, but both Arianna and the questioner from the LATimes need a reality check, for the “hatred of the media” has been going on a lot longer than the last five years. This is a nice attempt to re-write history in a way that favors the professional press, but take a look below at the graph from the folks at Gallup from their annual governance poll. Only 9% of Americans say they have a great deal of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly,” and the slide didn’t begin with Bush’s war.

From Gallup's annual governance survey

Where DID the slide begin? Oh my, that can’t be! The professional press wants so badly to believe its own hype that it refuses (is unable) to acknowledge the truth, that the slide in press trust in the U.S. began atop professional journalism’s Watergate mountain. Of course, the pros will argue that this is when spin doctors began their assault on the press, but that’s just hubris.

The problem with elitist pedestals, as I have often noted, is oxygen deprivation. Now is not the time to cling to the stage, for the action is down here, among the people. If we can get down here, and the trust will come back, Arianna, but if we stay where we are, it’s gone for good.

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