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The Press is No More Intelligent

I just watched the initial White House press briefing. I was watching on MSNBC, and immediately afterwards one of the reporters commented that the briefing was quite contentious, that the press corps was “feisty” and that this should lay to rest any idea that the press, which was pretty negative on President Bush, would fail to be vigilant in challenging the Obama White House.

Now I think that a free press is very important in a democracy. I believe that one of the few things on which I can be said to take an extreme position is freedom of speech and of the press. But if the press that is free is also lazy and stupid, that freedom will do little good.

In this case, the majority of the questions were stupid. While they may have put the briefer (Robert Gibbs) on the spot because they were unexpected, they also were unlikely to elicit any valuable information or pressure any substantive change. The questions on the retaking of the oath of office and the concerns over how it was covered by the press were particularly inane and childish. (I was going to write a short post on the oath thing, but Allan Bevere wrote a better one.)

The frequent complaint about bloggers, however valid, is also often valid about the mainstream media. In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there’s a scene in which a young reporter, carried away by the joy of reporting an important accomplishment says that he had always wanted to be someone who reports news. Our press should consider sharing that fictional young man’s ambition.

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