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Journalist Herd Mentality

04/08/2013 01:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2013

Political Pet Peeves: Chapter One.

How is it that in the last few days I've seen ten articles from all the major newspapers about Obama's proposed budget for the new fiscal year, all of which scream in their headline that he's calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare -- then go on to say nothing useful about Social Security, and absolutely nothing at all about Medicare?

And they each say the exact same nothing in almost exactly the same way.

They start with Social Security, and mention one (and only one) example -- that Obama is proposing changing the way cost of living increases are calculated to reduce the rise in benefits -- parroting the green eye shade term Chained CPI just to show how "smart" they are, as if that term is of any use to the people these journalists are supposed to be serving, ie: us, the people.

Meanwhile, they offer little or no further explanation of what that might mean in terms of dollars received for different income classes. And they mention nothing about what other changes the president proposes for Social Security, if any.

Meanwhile, with "CUTS IN SS AND MEDICARE" blazing in the headlines, they never mention another word about Medicare in the body of their article, let alone spell out what cuts Obama proposes in that program.

What they do devote paragraph after paragraph to is how the proposal is setting off a firestorm among the liberal base. And how conservatives think it's equally dead on arrival due to its call for tax increases as well. But who cares? I mean, again -- isn't journalism supposed to provide news and information for the general public that we can actually use to help understand what our government is doing in our name, to help grease the wheels of informed debate, to pry open the doors of democracy? Why would I, the common man, care one whit about what upsets liberal or conservative partisans? Or what platitude some politician utters as a talking point of the day. What does any of that have to with me? I want to know what the proposed policy change means to me on a substantive level. Period.

Where are the mainstream journalists who will tell me?

Now I know that the president hasn't officially presented his budget yet, which is coming this week. But please don't tell me these journalists aren't privy to any more details than those that have dribbled out so far.

Why is this happening even among (once) serious journalists? Have they just gotten lazy or what? Do they now see their their jobs as simply recycling hand outs from the White House press office? Are they not capable of doing any original reporting anymore? And for crying out loud, can't they at least change a few words here and there so they don't all look like carbon copies of each other? That wouldn't make things better, but at least it wouldn't make me gag so much when reading the morning news.

I'm perfectly aware, and perfectly frightened by the fact that fewer and fewer of our fellow Americans read a serious newspaper daily to stay up to speed on current events. But is the proper response for our major news organs to just abandon them, and cater only to political junkies and special interests? If so, woe is us.

Echoes of once upon a time...

"The central dilemma in journalism is that you don't know what you don't know."

-Bob Woodward

"The lack of information, (and) misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people's lives has overrun real journalism.
Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage."
-Carl Bernstein