Boy, is there a lot of religion news circulating now. And a lot of good commentary.  I’ll do something soon on the Church of England-Vatican frisson, and then something about R. Crumb, and then about Laurie Goodstein’s excellent work for The Times on priestly indiscrections.  But, for now, something I’ve been wanting to develop my thinking about: The way the “mainstream media” (OK, I’ll use “their” apellation here–you know what I mean by “their,” right?) are increasingly allowing themselves, and–by extension–ecnouraging the national political discourse to be determined by the margins.

Here’s what I mean.  We’ve allowed a kind of groupthink to develop around the twin forces of talk media-by that I mean radio talkers and cable news–and the online-blogosphere.   We let them set the agenda. And they are newsworthy voices in that they originate ideas that are interesting, even (mostly) scandalous.  Things that might once have been thought but not said (except over coffee at the diner, around the cracker barrel, in the coffee shop, or on the shop floor) are now said on radio, television, and online.

The question is, what do the rest of us do with those sayings?  Journalists are fairly consistently treating them as authoritative.  I think we’ve got to ask “authoritative of what?”  A fact to keep in mind: the total evening audience for all the cable news channels combined at latest count was ab out 3.7 million.  A lot, but compared to what?  Certainly not compared to the total population or the audience for news overall?

And, an example of how this dog-wagging happens appeared in this morning’s Indianapolis Star (where I currently am).  Under the head “Obama trakes flak for girls’ flu shots” we get an AP story that a few blog posts and online sources had found a few parents who were frustrated that they had to wait for their own kids’ shots.  It happened, but was it the same thing as “flak?”  How much did it matter, really, politically?  What kind of news judgement took a small story and 1) put it on page 2A and 2) with that head?  Worth thinking about.

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