The news media has a credibility problem. A big one.
Once one of the most trusted institutions in history is now one of the most mistrusted. A new study by the Associated Press reports that just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media. 6 percent!
That puts journalists just about equal to Congress, and well below the public’s view of other institutions. It should not come as a surprise that Democrats were more likely to trust the news media than Republicans or independents because of the media’s perceived left-leaning bias.
“But trust today also goes beyond the traditional journalistic principles of accuracy, balance and fairness,” noted the AP. “The poll shows that accuracy clearly is the most important component of trust.”
Nearly 90 percent of Americans say it’s extremely or very important that the media get their facts correct, according to the study. About 4 in 10 say they can remember a specific incident that eroded their confidence in the media, most often one that dealt with accuracy or a perception that it was one-sided
The news media have been hit by a series of blunders on high-profile stories ranging from the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling on President Barack Obama’s health care law to the Boston Marathon bombing that have helped feed negative perceptions of the media. Its out-and-out avowed hatred of Donald Trump’s campaign certainly adds fuel to the charges of biased coverage.
Its out-and-out avowed hatred of Donald Trump’s campaign certainly adds fuel to the charges of biased coverage. In fact, Trump uses the public’s hatred of the news media to his advantage (LINK).
In 2014, Rolling Stone had to retract a vivid report about an alleged gang rape at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia. A few years earlier the news media was embarrassed by its coverage about an alleged incident involving members of the Duke University lacrosse team.
According to the AP, readers also are looking for balance: Are there enough sources so they can get a rounded picture of what they are reading? They want transparency, too. “Tell me what you don’t know and tell me how you’re going about reporting the story,” she said.
About 6 in 10 Americans watch, read, or hear news several times a day, as computers, smartphones and tablets make it easier for people to follow the news on an on-demand basis. A majority of people get news from social media, most frequently by far from Facebook, but only 12 percent of Facebook users have trust in that social media outlet.
Don’t expect the trust level to go back up anytime in the future. Major newspapers across the country have been letting go veteran journalistic talent in order to stay profitable. That means less qualified journalists will be asked to do more work, which leads to more errors in coverage.
The poll of 2,014 adults was conducted Feb. 18-March 21 with funding from the American Press Institute. It used a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later interviewed online or by phone.