By Dave Andrusko
Lemme see. Let’s pretend you are ensconced in the media elite. Assuming you actually want to, how could you figure out how to ally the public’s massive distrust of the mass media, basically but not exclusively newspapers, TV, and radio?
And to be clear from the start, confidence has dramatically eroded. In a recent Gallup poll, when it came to “reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly,” a whopping 58% of the public has either “not very much” trust or confidence (29%) in the mass media or “none at all” (also 29%).
Back to the first question, what’s your answer? Well you have the prestigious Knight Foundation’s Trust, Media and Democracy Initiative crank out a report which “relied on a variety of research approaches” to “assess why people trust or distrust media, and how trust might be restored,” according to Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones and Zach Ritter.
When you read Jones’ and Ritter’s summary, you might have the reaction most people have when read about the results of too many government reports: “You needed to spend gobs of money to come up with that”?!
What do you think most people would want from the media? How about being accurate, unbiased, and transparent? Well….of course!
Two other considerations from the report which can be read here.
First, Jones and Ritter tell us, “Relatively few mention a news organization’s partisan or ideological leaning as a factor.” People can sort out leanings and make their selections.
This next point is very revealing, especially the second sentence. “Both Republicans and Democrats were less likely to trust news sources with a partisan reputation that opposes their own. However, they did not express much greater trust in news sources that have a reputation for a partisan leaning consistent with their own.” (Emphasis added.)
What the public wants is (say it again) for the news outlet to be accurate, unbiased, and transparent.
Second, Gallup writes, “Most U.S. adults, including more than nine in 10 Republicans, say they have lost trust in the news media in recent years. At the same time, 69% of those who have lost trust say that trust can be restored.”
Presumably the basis for that restoration would be…. accuracy, unbiasedness, and transparency.
When media outlets tell you their venomous, full blown attacks on President Trump and/or most Republicans is the only way to save the Republic, you have to wonder how unbiased they are.
As for transparency, part of what a few of the heavyweights do is to provide what Jones and Ritter call “fact-checking resources.” But too often institutional fact-checkers are notoriously tilted which means you routinely have to fact-check the fact checker.
And as for looking for and at their own flaws, it is (as they say) no accident that ombudsmen have practically vanished.
So, in summary, were the solutions, implemented fairly, accurately, and without bias, it could make a real difference.
But I’m guessing, like me, most of you are not going to hold their breath waiting for the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post to become even remotely objective, let alone transparent and self-aware of their crippling biases.