When I read a (well written) scholarly paper, it comes with footnotes. I can trace the information back to its original source; I can follow the writer’s logic step by step. I am presented with all the information necessary to make up my own mind, and if I disagree with the author at least I can nail down the cause and nature of the dispute.
When I read a (well written) legal document, it comes with explicit explanations of all pertinent terms. I can trace the assumptions of the document; I can follow the logic which is applied to those axioms. I am given all I need to make up my own mind, and if I disagree with someone while interpreting the document, it is a trivial matter to determine the specific itemized point on which we conflict.
When I read a (well written) web page, it comes with hyperlinks. I can trace the information the author is providing; I can read more detailed descriptions or discussions of subsidiary points the author uses to make his or her arguments. I am provided with all the information I need to determine to what extent I trust or distrust the author, and to what extent I agree or disagree with the author.
When I watch CBS news, I have no choice but to take their word for it. There are no footnotes. There are no detailed explanations of information CBS believes to be axiomatic. There are no hyperlinks. CBS gives me Dan Rather, brief glimpses of documents, and un-contextualized partial segments of interviews with individuals about whom I possess a similar dearth of information. I am not provided with sufficient data to interpret events myself. I am not permitted to hear of interpretations besides those of CBS.
And that is why I don’t trust CBS. Or for that matter ABC. Or CNN, or MSNBC, or Fox News. I have a smattering of trust for NBC, but that’s really not founded on any rational basis and the more intelligent part of my mind believes quite strongly that I shouldn’t.
And that’s all I have to say about that.