Why Should We Listen to Them?

The editors and reporters at the New York Times are constantly hectoring us on various subjects, in their editorials as well as their news stories. Sometimes the subject is climate change, which requires a sophisticated knowledge of mathematics to evaluate competing theories. Or maybe it’s health care, where the paper’s editors denounce the rest of us for being reluctant to commit to trillions of dollars worth of government medicine. The implicit premise of the Times’ yammering is that they are smarter than you.
The problem is, it isn’t true. Reporters and editors at our major newspapers are neither smarter nor more knowledgeable than the general public. In fact, I think they are, in general, less so. Today’s case in point is a correction that the New York Times has run repeatedly in recent years. Yet, somehow, they never seem to learn:

An article on July 5 about the California governor’s race misstated the size of the outdoor tent where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger smokes cigars when working at the Capitol. The tent is about 15 feet square, not 15 square feet. (In other words, the tent is about 225 square feet.)

I say this in all seriousness: why should we take direction on any complex issue of public policy from a group of people who literally do not know what a square foot is? They are not smarter than we are. They are dumber.

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