By Neil Henry
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Additional info for American Carnival: Journalism under Siege in an Age of New Media
According to a now-familiar pattern of scandal, the wrongdoers are discovered, their crimes are investigated by editors, and then the miscreants are ﬁred. The dismissals, whether at the Sacramento Bee, the New York Times, USA Today, the Baltimore Sun, or the Associated Press, are announced with much self-righteousness by officials who apologize to the public for the individuals’ lapses. Credibility, the gate- 30 American Carnival keepers vow, is our most sacred stock in trade! Yet we hear little about the similarly sinister frauds committed on institutional levels, the booming business in advertorials pretending to serve as real “news” or the well-paid fakers who sell all manner of products and political causes in the guise of journalism—often with the complicity of the news industry—precisely because a presumed credibility is the journalist’s most valuable asset.
Journalism has progressed too far for the profession to tolerate today’s American Carnival 41 abuses. In a world of vast media penetration, dazzling technology, and unrestrained capitalism, the wrongs of journalism do seem manifestly greater, more sinister, and potentially more damaging than ever. 43 In key ways, journalistic corruption inﬂicts more signiﬁcant damage to the fabric of a free society today than systemic dishonesty in most other institutions in American life. Fraud in journalism goes far beyond the material or transitory, especially at a time in world history when the American electorate wields more power for good and ill on the planet than any society in human history.
Plagiarism, fabrication, and similar ethical crimes have appeared almost as regular features of contemporary journalism. Even the biggest lies told by anonymous sources, government insiders, and morally wayward reporters have been accepted uncritically and disseminated as gospel by the press for many reasons: poor veriﬁcation procedures, the nonstop pressure to be ﬁrst with the news, even an institutional bent to believe authority at the expense of healthy intellectual skepticism. On the most benign level, such dishonesty has led to an explosion of oftenmirthful hoaxes and other comparatively harmless New Media mischief in which both press and citizens have been snookered.
American Carnival: Journalism under Siege in an Age of New Media by Neil Henry