Saturday, December 24, 2005

On newspapers and trust

On December 17, a regional Massachusetts paper called The Standard-Times reported that agents from the Department of Homeland Security visited a student's house after he checked a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's Little Red Book out of a library. Today, we learn in the Boston Globe that this story was actually false. Now, clearly, this is an example of the incredible dangers inherent in the technology of newspapers, which permit reporters to publish things that are false! It's true that the error was eventually corrected, but the story was out there for a whole week, and it's far from clear that people who read the original article will see the follow-up reporting.

And look --- the Standard-Times posted a corrected article, but the old article's still available in the newspaper archives, where any schoolchild could come across it! Why don't these irresponsible editors send the archived article down the memory hole, for the children?

Emboldened by the unencumbered freedom of the printing press, reporters are out there spreading scandalous untruths about our national security apparatus. It's clear that the system of reporters and editors digging up facts and reporting them, without the oversight of a national Ministry of Information, cannot be allowed to continue. Or rather, I am personally all in favor of newspapers, but unless newspapers voluntarily submit themselves to scrutiny by a private-sector Ministry of Information, which consults with the government to ensure accuracy and fairness, then in the next election, who knows, maybe some reporter will report something inaccurate about a politician, and the political pressure to regulate newspapers will become overwhelming. And people like John Seigenthaler will have to step in to defend them.


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