Collectively, we agonized: Will the public ever trust us again?
"We didn't trust you in the first place!" ... explains why so few people had complained after Jayson Blair made up stuff about them — they assumed that that is just what reporters do.
Yes, people watch and buy all this stuff. That doesn't mean they respect it. They see a profession that acts excited about a lot — Laci Peterson, The Matrix Reloaded, political horse races — but cares about nothing.
So it's not surprising that we've seen the runaway success of Fox News, which cares with a vengeance. Its pugilism and its high-decibel hosts' badly masked rightward leanings are journalistically incorrect, but they're not marketing (well, not just marketing). If Fox's political convictions often override its journalistic ones, at least it has convictions. Whereas when MSNBC slapped the flag onscreen and CNN hired Connie Chung for a shot of Fox-y tabloidism, it looked like the insincere opportunism that it was. Ironically, CNN brands itself the "most trusted name in news," and it has a deeper news bench than Fox. But CNN isn't the most watched name in news, perhaps because its definition of trust — "trust us to get accurate scoops" — is not the public's only priority.
We can root out every error, every plagiarist, every bias — but it won't do any good if we replace them with a gutless inoffensiveness. We've spent a month being worried that our readers and viewers hate us because they think we're liars. Relax, brethren; they don't. They hate us because they think we're phonies.