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‘Trust but verify’ in the age of truthfulness

TELEVISION CRITIC

“The IFC Media Project,” which premieres tonight on the Independent Film Channel, is a six-part series designed to wake the slumbering masses to the fact that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the paper or see on television. I am sorry to shock you with this. Do you need to sit down? Can I get you some water?

That the American public already feels something of this sort is borne out by those intermittent polls that rank professions in terms of trustworthiness: A 2006 Harris Poll, for example, found journalists trusted by only 39% of the population, behind athletes but ahead of members of Congress (and, it should be said, also ahead of pollsters).

Still, as much as we know about the ways we are misled, we are easily misled anyway. And there is something entertaining in this kind of corrective, even if it is kind of offhand. Producers Meghan O’Hara and Nick McKinney both have professional histories with Michael Moore, the king of muckraking comedy, and the show is at its best when at its giddiest -- most of the segments are too short or shallow to be convincing on the bigger issues, at least to someone not already convinced.

Even a relatively generous 10 minutes is, for example, not enough time to dissect the way the American media cover, or does not cover, Israel. It is only enough time to suggest that there is something oversimplified and partisan about it, even compared with the Israeli media’s coverage of themselves. (Former Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Silverstein, who fought with editors over material he guesses they thought too “pro-Arab,” appears in this segment.)

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Eyebrows will raise occasionally, as in a segment on a man who promotes “missing white girl” stories to cable news. And the show can be evocative, even when not going deep: A segment on an Iraqi combat photographer works mostly because of its subject’s youth and the quality of his photographs, and the sense that we get that there is something slightly mad in his pursuit, in spite of his own characterizations to the contrary.

Host Gideon Yago, an MTV News veteran, is only 30, so the kids can still trust him. (The attitude is a little . . . attitudinal at times: There’s no good reason to refer to missing-person Natalee Holloway as “that chick in Aruba.”) And all children should be taught, I believe, that grown-ups often spin the truth, that “embedded journalism” means co-opted journalism, and that people who claim to be nonpartisan frequently are not.

Most children most likely suspect this, but we owe it to them to admit that it’s true.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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‘The IFC Media Project’

Where: IFC

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When: 5 and 8 tonight

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)


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