Credibility Sells Newspapers; Is It Good For Democracy?

Beyond stupid ideas about how the drive for clicks destroys the press (as if Washington Post reporters in the 1950s didn't want people to read their stories) there is still something to learn from the fact that press outlets are for-profit businesses. 

But only if you understand what they are selling. They have always been selling "good stories". But since the NYT won the newspaper wars, they have also been selling credibility. When granted monopoly power in the post-war era, a small circle of white men decided that good stories and credibility were two aspects of the same coin. How? By turning the product "credibility" into the moral value of "objectivity." The proof that this worked: booming profits and public respect. 

Problem: monopolies make booming profits no matter what. Booming profits prove absolutely nothing about the value of post war professional and objective news.  

With every passing year credibility--the product--got more forgotten and objectivity--the moral value--became more ingrained. Objectivity further became the aspect of journalism credited with the democracy saving job of "a free press" in the wake of Watergate. 

So, welcome to 2016. Fox News has rediscovered the public's desire for good stories. CNN as well, but they get criticized for it (seriously, there is no shame in wall to wall coverage of a "ghost plane" out of Malaysia). But the objective media at the NYT provides more than a year of coverage of Trump before reporting (the objective fact) that everything he says is a lie. 

And the single most important news source (as treated by the press) for the front runner's campaign? A creepy Stieg Larsson character hiding from rape prosecution in a Third World embassy! 

Julian Assange is no one's idea of a credible anything. But that's totally irrelevant. We don't need a credble  free press to leak the emails, to leak the FBI investigation (Watergate), to leak the Pentagon Papers (Vietnam), or to leak the DOD investigation (Abu Ghraib).

And we definitely don't need the credibility that made Judy Miller so dangerous and easy for W and Cheney to manipulate.