So you thought you would have a break for a few months to watch the polls? No chance.
It’s not a presidential election year, however, so pollsters decided to focus their questions last month away from Biden-Trump-Pelosi-et al. whirlwind.
But the results of the last two polls, we have to say, may be more important in the long run than any fleeting political issue.
America, we have a problem.
Gallup and the
Reuters Institute recently released a media poll. Polls suggest – in fact, they scream – that the citizens of this country do not trust the media.
The lack of confidence is constant. Overwhelming. Dangerous.
This month, 21% of people who answered Gallup’s questions said they have great faith in newspapers.
Only 16% say the same about TV news. Congress arrives at 12%. (It’s been a long time since American revolutionaries took to the streets of Boston shouting in front of the red tunics: “God Save Congress!”)
The annual report of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism was even worse.
Oxford researchers interviewed 92,000 people around the world, including 46 countries. Pollsters asked about a lot of things, including the national media in those countries.
Finnish citizens were quite confident. They lead the world in confidence in their media with 65%.
The last in the world was none other than the United States of America.
Only 29% of “news consumers” in this country said they trusted the media. Finishing last means the United States is behind countries like Turkey, Colombia and Peru.
A few reporters, in a few stories we’ve read, tried to explain it, saying there was an overwhelming political divide in the United States. Therefore, no one here trusts anyone.
It might have something to do with it.
But why not put the blame where it deserves it? How about starting with the media?
It is becoming increasingly difficult to activate national cable broadcasts. And it can be infuriating to pick up a national newspaper.
Even many local newspapers (those owned by national chains) repeat the stories home offices send them.
And it seems the best opinion in some of these newspapers is in their news columns, instead of their opinion columns.
For cable networks, it’s a good business model.
In fact, it’s a great business model. They are making money hand in hand, finding stories guaranteed to outrage, even though the story is hyper-local and may affect six people across the continent. Fox News excels in this area. The problem arises when real news takes center stage and the network needs to be taken seriously. The same can be said for CNN. Good business models don’t necessarily translate into trust in the news.
Could it be that the media deserve all this mistrust? For the answer, see the media.
It seems that the best way to fix this persistent problem is to change the way the media – television, cable, newspapers, radio, the Internet, a combination of the mixture – run their business. Reports must present the news. Just the facts, ma’am.
(“Credibility is the greatest asset of any news medium, and impartiality is the greatest source of credibility.”)
And instead of framing the news to match the opinion of the person providing it, the media representative of the day should present the news and let the reader / observer / consumer make up their own mind.
(“To provide the most comprehensive report, a news organization must not only cover the news, but find out about it. It must follow the story wherever it leads, regardless of any preconceptions about what might be the more worthy of interest. ”)
And God knows we’re not averse to writing good opinions. But opinion must be labeled as such and separated from current events. (“When a newspaper disseminates both news and opinions, the impartiality and credibility of the news agency can be called into question.
To minimize this as much as possible, there needs to be a neat and clear distinction between information and opinion, both for those who provide and who consume information. “)
All of the quotes immediately above can be found in this journal’s Statement of Core Values on page 2A each day. That is, we try.
Until the media tries to portray the American people fairly, they will have a problem of trust. And on occasions when the news demands trust in the media (pandemics, terrorist attacks, national security concerns), this will prove to be an exceptional problem.
Not just for the media, but for the country.