Opinion: Columnists

Here are two reasons most Americans don't trust the mainstream media

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Mark Tapscott,Columnists,Campaign 2012

If I've said it once, I've said it hundreds of times, especially when talking with young people thinking about becoming journalists: Journalism is a proud profession because it is the first line of liberty's defense.

Journalists have a constitutional license to shine light in the dark places of government. That's the main reason I love my job and cannot imagine myself doing anything else.

It's too bad the majority of Americans don't trust journalists. Even more distressing, though, is the fact that most of the editors, reporters, producers and researchers who occupy journalism's commanding heights don't seem to have a clue about why their work lacks credibility.

How do I know that? Well, let's do an experiment. Here are two important stories on issues of vital national importance, but you aren't likely to hear much about them if you depend upon the broadcast networks and big national dailies for your news. That's because both stories cut across the conventional wisdom that suffocates independent thinking in the leading newsrooms.

The first story concerns electric vehicles, or EVs, which are assumed to be the wave of the green future. EVs cannot now and aren't likely any time soon to offer more comfort or convenience at less cost to consumers than conventional internal-combustion cars and trucks.

Even so, the federal government has spent billions of dollars in the past two decades on research, loans and tax credits to encourage automakers to sell more EVs and consumers to buy them. But consumers avoid EVs like the plague.

As a result, Toyota, which two years ago confidently predicted it would soon be selling thousands of EVs, reversed course this week, with a senior executive saying "the current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society's needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge."

Search the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post for coverage of Toyota's decision, and you'll likely find only blog notes buried deep within. The broadcast networks similarly ignored the story.

The second story concerns something else the federal government has spent billions of tax dollars on in the past two decades in the form of research, loans and tax credits to encourage, namely, construction of affordable housing for the poor.

Chicago's ShoreBank was for many years the nation's largest community bank, specializing in funding affordable housing developments and mortgages. It was also the 2008 Obama presidential campaign's bank. ShoreBank went under two years ago.

Former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairwoman Sheila Bair told the American Banker this week that ShoreBank failed in part due to mismanagement caused by partisan politics.

She also said the otherwise admirable commitment of the bank's owners and managers to encouraging more affordable housing in Chicago resulted in it "going astray" and "relying too much on its cachet and glamorous reputation among liberal groups and did not focus enough on the basics of running a bank."

Bair's comments come hard on the heels of The Washington Examiner's exclusive report last week laying out President Obama's central role in leading Chicago's liberal activists to unite with greedy developers and the city's corrupt political machine in spending hundreds of millions of public dollars and tax credits on failed affordable housing developments.

The developers got rich, the politicians, including Obama, got campaign donations, and the liberal activists got jobs and power, but Chicago's poor got screwed.

The Times and Post will probably give decent coverage to Bair's new book in which she discusses ShoreBank and other issues. But don't hold your breathe waiting for them to connect the dots to the Examiner's reporting on Obama's role in these matters.

And they will still wonder why they're held in such low regard by the public.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

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