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Posted by on Mar 1, 2009 in Media, Politics | 0 comments

Our New Prime Source Of “News”—Think Tanks

Major newspapers are closing down these days almost as fast as insolvent banks. Many media people are not all that worried about this trend, however, because they believe Internet bloggers will pick up the slack when it comes to reporting stories and providing incisive editorial comments.

Maybe so. But maybe, just maybe, a major new source of news and commentary won’t be bloggers who may be opinionated but at least are independent, but rather corporate peddlers of company-friendly, sales enhancing insights, and even more scary from this writer’s perspective, the highly articulate denizens of think tanks.

In recent years think tank commentary has become a major presence on innumerable editorial pages and even to a growing degree on supposed reporting of straight news. The reason is obvious. A newspaper has to pay its own editorialists and reporters, but a think tank is delighted to supply very well written and edited material that fits any space a newspaper needs to fill, and do so for free—free, that is, to the newspaper, because think tanks pay very good wages indeed to their analysts.

One needs to be both clear and fair about this trend. The people who produce this material are generally very smart, very well educated, and very well steeped in the subject about which they are writing. They are also not hypocrites. They believe what they are writing.

But..they are only hired to work in a think tank because their views accord with those of their generally quite partisan employers. To expect that this news and views output will be perfectly balanced and bias-neutral is thus silly.

As newspapers trim down their staffing more and more to survive financially, a well funded group of professional opinionators will increasingly come forth to provide the copy we read. In many countries today, and in our own country many years ago, “reporters” and columnists” were rightly viewed as special interest hacks or flacks.

Is it happening again? It seems that’s the case.

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