An amplification of this.
The Washington Post ombudsman last week had an interesting column responding to complaints about the paper's coverage of the fight over universal health care reform. He explains that readers send him notes like this:
Neal Gabler, writing in the Los Angeles Times, adds another implication of the critique of the media: reporting has not helped its audience discern what is true.
That is, health care reform is drowning in horserace journalism, more suited to covering a sporting event than helping people form smart opinions about life and death policies.
Matt Thompson at Newsless.org has offered a critique of the way "news" is currently delivered to us that provides a good description of why the ombudsman is hearing what he hears and Gabler is so frustrated. This article should be required reading for anyone trying to understand discontent with journalism.
Thompson says the media are pretty good at telling us "what just happened." That's fine, if we already know (as we hope the reporter does), 1) "the longstanding facts," 2) "how the journalist knows what s/he knows," and 3) "what we don't know." Unfortunately, the latter three are almost never part of the story, yet without them "the news" is just a meaningless stream of gobbledeeguck with occasional emotional hooks.
Truly -- go read Thompson.