USA’s loss of trust in news

Fairfacts confirmed in a post a little while back that his idea of fair is the same as that of Fox News . He did it though while commenting on a particularly interesting series of research. The research is a periodic survey, conducted since 1985 by Pew, on public attitudes to the media.

As always Fairfacts wrote good troll fodder – the best line of which was:

Considering how Fox News is prospering while the MSNBC and the New York Times for example, seem to be paying a particularly high price for their liberal bias, I hope that our own MSM in New Zealand can get the message.

That’s bound to get a rise from many – especially as the very next line was:

..the purpose of the MSM, as paid professionals is to offer fair and balanced news and analysis.

Instead of reading the entertaining yet jingoistic Fairfacts – go instead to the source – Pew’s Research Center for People and the Press – where you will find the original report. It’s fascinating stuff, but to be fair you could interpret the results in a number of ways.

For example:

In 2005, the proportion of Republicans saying news stories are often inaccurate reached a high of 68%: just 47% of Democrats agreed.

Does this mean that the reports from the news organisations actually were inaccurate? (which makes most Republicans right and half of the Democrats right) Or does it mean the reports were accurate and but that the Republicans were a bit less inclined to believe the reports than the Democrats?

Undoubtedly it means both. During the last 10 years we saw from the traditional media plenty of examples of poor journalism (e.g. not not challenging the premise behind Iraq war), an overwhelming amount of biased reporting (Fox) and plenty of one eyed rhetoric (Monica). It’s fair to say that the left and the right were never really communicating, and really still do not to this day. Go follow the health care debate if you want to see what pit of hell political discourse has descended to in the USA.

Regardless of political affiliation, all media, US and otherwise, should be looking at this table with some concern.
Pew
Not only do over 60% of people see media news as influenced, biased, inaccurate and one eyed, but a mere 27% see them as professional.

If the big news concerns are not seen as independent and professional, then the value of their authority – their brand if you will – erodes steadily. That brand is out trust in them, and if we do not trust those that bring us the news then why should we bother to watch, listen or read?

We need news organisations that we can trust to find and edit the news – reporting in a truly balanced way. We are lucky in New Zealand with our main media companies – across TV, newspapers and radio we have more than one source of news we can trust. May it continue for a long time.

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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2 Responses to USA’s loss of trust in news

  1. Martijn says:

    Why doesn’t the media see what’s happening?

    I think every civilized society has to have at least one independent collectively funded news medium. Their ratings should not be measured and their funds should be large enough to do real investigative journalism.

    Commercial news is more and more difficult to maintain. There is not enough news to fill 10 channels but we need to show something. Not showing anything means no advertisements means no money.

    For example. When disaster strikes the commercial media keeps running the same footage over and over asking more and more so called experts their opinion. Our national television (in The Netherlands) often stops their coverage for half an hour because there is nothing new. I am not interested in the answer to the question which minister should resign when it should seem that there was any error as long as they are trying to rescue people from any burning mayhem.

    I believe media play a vital role in society in creating transparency. But when media are ruled by money and money alone then some stories remain untold. I am not a conspiracy believer however.

    This leaves some space for any individual with some spare time a weblog, a podcast and a Youtube channel to play the same role as the media themselves.

    One great example of the huge errors Fox makes when reporting on some issues are illustrated in this Youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTPsFIsxM3w

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  2. teriabel says:

    To shamelessly ramble:

    I don’t WANT balanced news. This is such political correctness for me. I want NEWS. “BALANCED” news is a lie. Real news isn’t “balanced” because reality isn’t balanced. The point is, the stuff that’s in the news is supposed to be different from the stuff that’s not. They’re not equal. Some stuff got picked, some other stuff didn’t. That’s why it’s news. And even WITHIN all that got picked, there’s no homogeneity.

    For argument–if a disproportionate number of people in U.S. prisons are black males, then what are you supposed to do? Spend 50% of the time talking about black males in prison and TO BE BALANCED spend 50% talking about the 17 Chinese men in prison? It’s nuts. Tell me the truth—really, I can handle it. There might be terribly instructive-to-the-republic learnings from acknowledging these disparities. But you have to SEE them in the first place. Certainly, in healthcare there ARE.

    If 100% of the people who voted for that give away to the most profitable industry in free enterprise history called the Prescription Drug Bill (for example)–with its cost expected to exceed that of the S&L bailout (which itself exceeded that of WWII per WSJ)–are REPUBLICAN, all of those who voted against it were Democrat, and if the republicans are the SAME people now talking about the COST of stimulus packages (the first of which was a fraction of the estimated cost of the drug bill) and the COST of healthcare—what are you supposed to say??? “Well FOR THE RECORD, Democrats do really stupid stuff too.”

    It’s nuts.

    The idea that both sides have to be equally insulted/praised at all times or over time is lunacy to me. If your side does stupid stuff you get insulted. If not, you don’t. Don’t be mad at journalism because they wrote it up. “Balance” is code for “don’t insult MY team, unless you insult the other side twice as much.” As if simply calling your news balanced makes it so. Everything that calls itself something is the opposite: the “Patriot Act”, “No Child Left Behind”, “FISCAL CONSERVATIVES”, the “prescription drug bill” (should be called “the way not to guarantee prescription drugs bill”), the “FAIR TAX”, and “FAIR AND BALANCED NEWS”—to my horror NPR used this term several times in some recent programming— think about that. NPR is saying they need to mimic FOX? NPR???

    …In the U.S, some history is key: the New York Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court case twisted a lot of conservative knickers: When white southerners wanted to shut up northern media companies (the main ones willing to report on certain atrocities in the deep south as the southern press and the government itself of which it was supposed to constitutionally be watchdog, were of/by/for the Klan, etc.) the south’s strategy was “sue them [northern media] to death”.

    It failed; the court said the press is so vital to the republic that it can make mistakes about public officials so long as they’re not intentional or reckless or malicious— which was absolutely correct for them to do. http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1963/1963_39 . But conservatives HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY MAD WITH THE PRESS EVER SINCE—and particularly with the New York Times. To date the Sulzbergers to their credit have managed to keep it out of the hands of Ruinous Murdoch–but maybe that’s his ultimate conquest and why he wants it so bad. If you can’t sue it to death, OWN IT…not calling him a conservative. But he clearly supports their efforts at every single level.

    …Given the FOX record, I’m surprised more haven’t defected—a lot of repubs were TOLD there were weapons of mass destruction; were TOLD that the war would pay for itself and gas would stay cheap (a correlation b/t world oil/gas prices and Hussein’s power is overdue for charting); were TOLD by FOX that the economy was fine while Bush was in office—then they lost their job/house/retirement/health insurance; were TOLD by FOX that there was NO WAY a black or a woman could win the election up until election night—Rush Limbaugh said “they don’t have a chance”… So Santa Clause–FOX news–hasn’t brought many presents recently..do they not suspect the beard might be fake?

    …Thank goodness for the substantive counterpuncher in MSNBC….

    …And answer me this: why has nobody in U.S. media raised the issue that the “socialism” hating right wing that so highly values FOX are the only ones who get their broadcast news from the only news medium OWNED BY A SELF-DECLARED SOCIALIST and admirer of Lenin—–Ruinous Murdoch? Where is that story? Mindboggling.

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