We asked for it. We got it. In the past couple of issues, I invited your thoughts on matters of fairness and objectivity in the media—and how you thought U.S. News was doing on those fronts. So far I've gotten about a thousand E-mails, letters, and online comments, with more coming in.
The good news is that many of you appreciated how we work to provide fair-minded reporting and analysis. A lot of you said you've dropped other publications because you no longer trust them. The criticisms of us were civil and constructive. But I sure got an earful. As one reader wrote after a kind intro: "That was the sugar, now for the medicine." Or a little more pointedly: "I would suggest that when you get home you shorten your 'happy hour' and stop smoking what you are smoking."
True or false. What you want is more accountability. Check the conflicting claims of battling politicians. One reader wondered plaintively why we can't do "the simple job of keeping them honest in their political ads." Get to the truth (harder than it might appear at first, but point taken). Some debates are still stuck in a rut. On our coverage of George Bush, most letters diverged between those who supported the war in Iraq and those who didn't. My assertion that the surge strategy had proved a courageous and successful decision was met with tart rebukes, including the gentleman who said it was like praising Mrs. O'Leary's cow for peeing on the Chicago fire.
And there's some nitpicking. Several of you counted the photos of Barack Obama and John McCain in a given issue. A Q&A page with Obama's foreign-policy adviser brought howls of bias, doubtless from folks unaware that we had just run a two-page interview with McCain himself (uh-oh, two pages?). Sometimes you just have to trust that we're trying to make it balance out in the end.
What's clear is that the role of the media is much on the minds of voters in this hypercharged season. Our ability to sort out the myths from the realities may be the difference between maintaining our place in the information food chain and being swallowed up by talk radio, the Internet, and, ouch, the Colbert Report. I hope we can keep the dialogue going. We're running your responses in the magazine and posting them online at our letters section. So please write, E-mail—or go right to my column online and post your comments. The best thing about online is that you can publish your thoughts in real time and argue with each other—thus getting me out of the middle and back to happy hour. -Brian Kelly