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Credibility crisis

The quality press in the USA, still the leading medium for generations of TV and print journalists in this country, has to struggle with problems of credibility. It is no longer just the excesses of borderline journalism or the unfounded failures of its Brazil correspondent with which the New York Times, for example, made negative headlines on its own behalf. The well-known papers from the Los Angeles Times to the Washington Post, but also the major TV channels ABC, NBC and CNN, are more difficult to deal with in the run-up to and during the Iraq campaign. The main criticism was not that news was generally suppressed, but that, in the patriotic frenzy, skeptical or dissident positions on the Iraq war were consistently treated marginally. The finding as such is not new and has now also been well documented in journalistic terms. While the opponents of the US armed conflict were blatantly underrepresented on US television in the run-up to the Iraq war, a critical study of the role of US quality newspapers is now available. An analysis by the Columbia Journalism Review then revealed that the liberal, journalistic opinion leaders from the Washington Post to the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times also argued largely loyally to the government in their comment columns. From the perspective of the journal, too little attention was paid to the justified objections to the alleged relationship between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda or to Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. In some cases, the media have now distanced themselves from their "hurray patriotism"; after all, it is also about the credibility of the press in the upcoming US presidential election campaign. The New York Times (NYT) in particular offered apologies to its own readers. It was self-critically admitted that information and informants - such as the dubious Iraqi exile Ahmed Jalabi - had not been checked with the due care. There are, of course, several reasons why the paper was forced to take this step in the editorial. The paper also has to contend with a loss of credibility for other reasons. If NYT editor-in-chief Howell Raines stumbled upon the fictional stories of reporter Jayson Blair last year, who accused the newspaper of complacency and indolence after leaving the Atlantic Monthly, the Times correspondent in Brazil caused diplomatic entanglements, accusing President Lula of being drunk on highly questionable sources. In addition, the criticism of its reporting could disrupt the expansion course of the »New York Times« and could permanently damage the reputation of the umbrella brand. Because so far the figurehead of the US press (circulation: 1.2 million copies), which is also increasingly appearing as a TV producer (for example with ZDF), has weathered the ongoing media crisis surprisingly well financially. The online business was recently in the black and should therefore be expanded further. The takeover of the remaining 50 percent of the "International Herald Tribune" (circulation: 265,000) from the "Washington Post" should also bring the publisher additional advertising revenues in the future. Against this background, public self-criticism is quite a calculation - as a traditionally liberal-democratic paper from the east coast, reservations about republican politics are to a certain extent a duty for the NYT. Especially since in polarized America under George W. Bush, other media have long since filled the gaps left by the big TV systems (ABC, NBC, Fox) and the tame liberal opinion leaders among the daily newspapers. Above all, Michael Moore showed with his spectacular box office success of »Fahrenheit 9/11« that there is a growing need for counter-information to mainstream journalism in the USA. Critical online services are booming, political non-fiction books such as Craig Unger's "The Bushs and the Saudis" are experiencing a renaissance and an old master of journalistic research like Seymour Hersh ("New Yorker") has been a popular guest in Talk since his in-depth revelations about Al Ghoreib -Round. If the once undisputed opinion leaders from the Washington Post to the New York Times want to regain lost ground, they will have to present themselves more pointedly again in the presidential election campaign - if only for economic reasons. Because it is undisputed that these sheets also play an important role in ...

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