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Poll finds high level of distrust in the media. Anybody surprised?

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Back then, most Americans relied on local newspapers and such much-admired TV broadcasters as Walter Cronkite and Howard K. Smith, whose veracity was rarely questioned. When Mr. Cronkite ended his broadcasts with his signature “and that’s the way it is,” most of us believed him.

Vietnam and Watergate changed that to some extent. (It changed Cronkite, who publicly turned against the Vietnam War.) So did the civil rights movement and the push for gender equality. Establishment thinking and policies came under greater scrutiny, and conventional beliefs were challenged.

Fast-forward to the present, and the source of news (perhaps that should be “news”) has exploded. Many fewer newspapers, but a lot more cable television, radio and TV talk shows, news-based entertainment (Jon Stewart), partisan and ideological web sites, and so many bloggers that it brings to mind the old saw about monkeys and typewriters – what Chris Gaither and Susannah Rosenblatt writing in the Los Angeles Times several technological generations ago (2005) called “the uncensored bastions of ideological chest-thumping.”

Back to that partisan split in perceptions about trust in the media. Are reporters and editors, broadcasters and producers biased in a liberal direction? Is that why Democrats are more likely to trust the press?

That’s certainly the perception among many conservatives. How many times has Sarah Palin decried the “lamestream media?”

The mainstream media these days is nothing if not self-examining.

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