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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM

The decline of journalism

Newspapers have squandered citizens’ trust

The authors make a number of good points addressing the decline of journalism –in particular, the comment about the failure of newspapers to adequately address serious problems in our nation and region, while reporting stories of prurient interest like the octomom and other items of insignificance to readers’ lives [“Breathing new life into journalism,” Opinion, April 5].

They fail, however, to address a major issue regarding the reasons for the demise of journalism as they see it: the squandering of the trust that people once placed in newspapers.

The destruction of that trust, in my opinion, began in the 1960s in reporting events associated with the war in Vietnam, when journalism became unfair, unbalanced and inaccurate in order to support a particular political agenda.

Case in point was the portrayal of the 1968 Tet Offensive as a defeat for the U.S. and its allies, when the truth was that it was a devastating defeat for the North Vietnamese and their allies. I do not deny that Tet was a tipping point for the U.S. in the way the public viewed the war, but it was clearly a failure of journalism that the public then, as well as now, did not get a balanced view of the events surrounding it.

Journalism has become patently unfair and unbalanced, and more often than not, inaccurate. Couple that with local stories that do not point out, forcefully, as an example, that the latest budget brouhaha in Olympia is not, as our politicians would like us to believe, a $9 billion problem, but a less-than $3 billion problem if the current budget is used as a basis.

When newspapers become biased to the point where they disregard the views of the mostly conservative, or conservative-leaning moderates in the country who make up more than 50 percent of the public, and can no longer be trusted to be fair, balanced and accurate, their public purpose and interest in their product, dies.

— Dale F. Williams, Sammamish

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