Tim Rutten, taking to task his own Los Angeles Times and other MSM outlets, writes:
When John Edwards admitted Friday that he lied about his affair with filmmaker Rielle Hunter, a former employee of his campaign, he may have ended his public life but he certainly ratified an end to the era in which traditional media set the agenda for national political journalism. From the start, the Edwards scandal has belonged entirely to the alternative and new media. The tabloid National Enquirer has done all the significant reporting on it — reporting that turns out to be largely correct — and bloggers and online commentators have refused to let the story sputter into oblivion. . . It’s interesting that what finally forced Edwards into telling the truth was a mainstream media organization. ABC News began investigating the Edwards affair in October, but really began to push after the Beverly Hilton allegations. When ABC confronted Edwards with its story (which confirmed “95% to 96%” of the tabloid’s reporting, according to the network), he admitted his deception. With that admission, the illusion that traditional print and broadcast news organizations can establish the limits of acceptable political journalism joined the passenger pigeon on the roster of extinct Americana.
We also have the obligatory column from Clark Hoyt admitting that the New York Times was wrong, but denying that their reticence to cover the Edward story was the result of liberal bias. Yes, who could imagine such a thing of the paper which ran a front-page, uncorroborated story of the Republican nominee’s alleged relationship with a lobbyist some nine years ago?

The Edwards mess is the most recent and visible, but hardly unique, example of the mainstream media’s hear no evil/see no evil approach to newsgathering. How many other stories has the MSM missed, denied or avoided? From Rathergate to Reverend Wright to the success of the surge, the pattern is the same: MSM stalls, shuffles its collective feet, and doggedly ignores information for as long as possible until they can no longer do so with a straight face. The fact that these stories without exception work to the detriment of Democrats is apparently a grand coincidence.

And the notion that they are upholding some “journalistic standard” is rendered absurd. Edwards’ story wasn’t important on Thursday, but it was on Friday because he confessed? No, the level of proof changed, but the story’s relevance did not. If it wasn’t worthy of investigation before the ABC interview then it was unworthy of mention afterwards. Their explanation for their editorial decision-making is no more credible than . . . well than Edwards himself.

There is a reason why the news media’s trustworthiness is rated so low. MSM news reporting by and large has not improved or become more rigorous with the advent of so many alternative news outlets. (To the contrary, the 24-hour landscape of cable news has sent them scurrying for their niche audience, wary of any mildly opposing views that might offend their target audience.)

However, because of this and other similar episodes, the public now fully appreciates just how deficient most of the MSM outlets are. That’s generally a good thing (the public should know what they’re reading and watching is a pale and shaded immitation of reality), but it would be even better if the MSM engaged in some real introspection and cleaned up their act.

Commentary » Blog Archive » The MSM’s Latest Embarrassment