In bygone days the news media enjoyed a great deal of prestige and was trusted by nearly everyone. Walter Cronkite was called “the most trusted man in America.”
Those days are gone.*
A poll last week indicated that the news media are viewed least favorably of 16 major institutions. It is no wonder. Vicious partisanship is now the order of the day (see here for the latest on this). CNN, for example, seems to have given up even the pretense of being a news organization and now serves as the propaganda wing of the Democratic party.
And the nation suffers as a result.
When I first heard the hysterical news reports in late February and early March, I received them with extreme skepticism. More ratings driven/click bait yellow journalism I thought. We were all going to die from the bird flu; we were all going to die from swine flu; we were all going to die from SARS, zika, Ebola . . . I could go on and on. See here for a story about media health scares over the last 20 years.
And I was not alone. “This is no big deal.” “This is no worse than the seasonal flu.” These were common reactions until very recently. No one trusted the media. And, frankly, that was a reasonable response, because the media did not deserve to have anyone’s trust.
But as the story goes, if the boy who cries “wolf!” is lying 50 times in a row, that does not mean there is no wolf the 51st time.
This appears to be the 51st time. I am deeply saddened that the media spent literally decades conditioning us to ignore it, because I am confident the suffering and death wrought by this pandemic would have been mitigated substantially if we could have trusted the earlier reports.
* Ironically, Cronkite himself probably contributed to the initial phases of the collapse of trust in the media with his hysterical and unwarrantedly defeatist reporting after Tet.