Hypocritical talk radio hosts trash journalism at their own peril

Sometimes it seems that if you flutter from radio station to radio station in your car, like I do, and you light for more than a few minutes on a conservative talk show, you inevitably hear the host slamming journalism, not just The Denver Post or a specific story, but journalism in general.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with criticizing The Post. I do it all the time. But it’s the sweeping condemnations of journalism that are destructive and unnecessary, like the unsubstantiated claims that The Denver Post has a liberal bias.

I mean, just this morning, as I was driving to work and considering a blog post on this topic, I hear KHOW’s Peter Boyles agree with a caller who compared today’s journalists, like those at The Denver Post, to Catholic Church leaders who tried to stop the Gutenberg press because the Catholic Church didn’t want the masses to have their own bibles and their own access to the scriptures.

“Sure they are,” said Boyles in agreeing that journalists are like the self-serving Popes of yore who tried to put the lid on information and shut down the printing press.

Is that a stomach-turning and untrue analogy or what? The Post isn’t trying to stop ordinary people from learning on their own or publishing whatever they want on the Internet, whether it’s true or not. 

The Post is actually trying to give us the credible facts (not always accurate, but mostly) to help us be involved in public life in a meaningful way and to figure out stuff like who we want to vote for.

Boyles brought up this topic because Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton was on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show earlier this week saying, essentially, that people should be wary of all the untruths on the Internet. He argued that his newspaper is a credible source of information, versus much of the Internet.

And Boyles opinion of  Singeton’s radio appearance, as uttered on his show this morning: “That was bad.”

It was actually great to see Singleton defending journalism, and it raises the question of why don’t journalists defend themselves more often? Rocky Editor John Temple did it occasionally in his weekly column, even if his style was on the snooty side sometimes.

It’s ironic, of course, that talk radio hosts trash journalism, because they rely on it day after day for their shows. It’s hard to imagine how Boyles would fill his three hours if he didn’t have The Post to beat up on.

That’s the point I tried to make in this op-ed in Today’s Ft. Collins Coloradoan. KCOL’s Gail Fallen and Keith Weinman were perfectly happy to pat gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis on the back, as he condemned The Denver Post for doing its job and asking him to release his income tax forms.

Did the talk show hosts point out that The Post was performing the basic function of journalism, to get the facts on the table. Of course not.

Maybe they don’t care, but how great would it be if talk radio hosts changed course and defended journalism, instead of letting their callers and guests misrepresent the what reporters do and the role they play and have played historically in public debate?

Boyles knows better than to compare journalists to Popes. You can do better, Peter. So can other hosts.

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