Free Markets, Free People


Media’s Credibility Continues To Tank

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows the media’s credibility is at its lowest level since the poll has been taken (1985). Skepticism about the truthfulness of the media is rampant.

The survey found that 63 percent of the respondents thought the information they get from the media was often off base. In Pew Research’s previous survey, in 2007, 53 percent of the people expressed that doubt about accuracy.

The AP points out that the poll didn’t differentiate between bloggers and broadcast and newspaper reporters. The obvious implication is that “the internet” may be a primary reason the numbers are so low. I may have missed it, but I don’t know of any bloggers who present themselves as news people. Most of blogging is commentary on the news, the newsmakers or the media and its handling of the news. While “new media” might suggest that bloggers are on a par with what is commonly referred to as the MainStream Media (MSM), it’s simply not true. Few if any bloggers claim to be “journalists” (but there are journalists who are bloggers).

AP then reports:

The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

Carroll hopes the increased scrutiny and accountability fostered by the Internet will lead to better journalism.

“We’re in the early stages of a changing relationship between news organizations and consumers, who are becoming much more vocal about what they like, what they don’t and what they want to know,” Carroll wrote in a statement. “It’s not always pretty or pleasant, but that engagement can and does help improve coverage.”

The “internet” isn’t some amorphous blob. The part of the “internet” which “increased scrutiny and accountability” is the blogosophere. And that underlines the way the roles have broken out in the media as a whole – something the “internet” and blogosophere now figure in prominently. The monopoly on what is news as well as how that news is reported has been irrevocably broken.

It is that which the MSM is dealing, and, in most cases, it isn’t dealing with it well.

When the price of publishing dropped to the cost the price of an internet connection fee, the monopoly was broken. No longer consigned to letters to the editor (which may never be published), the people were able to speak out in various forums, but primarily through blogs. The result has been pretty stunning. Now a much more dynamic and democratic group decides what is news and how it is covered. In many cases, the MSM has been forced to cover stories it has obviously tried to ignore.

That is most likely one of the primary reasons their credibility remains low. In 1985 about 55% believed newspapers and broadcasters generally got things right.

By 1999, the figure had fallen to 37 percent. The only time the Pew survey recorded a significant shift in the media’s favor was in November 2001, when 46 percent said they believed news stories were accurate. Dimock attributes the anomaly to the sense of goodwill that permeated the United States after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The most recent poll found just 29 percent believed news reports had the facts straight. (Eight percent said they didn’t know.)

Similarly, only 26 percent of the respondents said the press is careful to avoid bias. The figure was 36 percent in 1985.

As has been the case for years, television remains the most popular news source. The poll found 71 percent of people depend on TV for national and international news. Some 42 percent said they relied on the Internet, 33 percent turned to newspapers and 21 percent tuned into the radio. (The figures don’t add to up 100 percent because some people cited more than one medium.)

A decade ago, only 6 percent of the survey participants said they leaned on the Web for their national and international news while 42 percent relied on newspapers. (TV also led in 1999, at 82 percent).

If you read this carefully, you realize that the credibility problem for the MSM began well before the internet, seeing a slide from 55% in ’85 to 37% in ’99. ’99 is when the internet began to be a factor. But note that even then, only 6% said they used it for their news source. In 10 years that has grown to 42%, faster than any other source.

And what has the internet and blogs been most successful at doing? Fact checking the MSM and pointing to bias. That’s one reason only 26% now believe the MSM to be unbiased in their reporting.

Obviously the media world is changing, and as AP’s Carroll says, the MSM is still trying to come to grips with the change. What seems to finally be dawning on the MSM is the “new media” isn’t going to go away. In some cases they’ve been successful in co-opting various players. But with bars to entry as low as an internet account, there are always new players who will enter the “new media” market. The MSM may as well resign themselves that fact and step up their game (maybe they need 4 levels of editors) unless they want to continue to see their credibility shredded.

~McQ

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10 Responses to Media’s Credibility Continues To Tank

  • The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

    ***

    Here’s the thing though – a lot of the worst of these errors are found by people using a cursory google search. There is absolutely zero reason why journos don’t do it.

  • I guess it is a matter of trying to determine whether they actually believe what they report or is it a case of noble cause corruption.

    I am believing that it is noble cause corruption (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/corruption/#nobl).

    There is no way they could honestly (and I mean honestly) believe what they write unless they are truly stupid.

    Therefore, they must do it because they believe in their cause and believe that they are doing it to save their country from all of us.

    Just because the guy on the other side of a bayonet believes that killing you is good for his country, doesn’t mean you have to believe it too if you put yourself in his shoes. :)

    • Wasn’t that one of the defenses for the use of the RatherGate memos? That the memos may have been fake, but what they represented was true?

      I think that the MSM has long been used to shaping the news in such a manner as to sway opinions, even outside of the editorial/opinion pages. They’re finding it more difficult now because it’s easy for their missteps (mistaken or deliberate) to quickly go viral and require them to step up and explain themselves, which often just adds to their problems.

    • capt joeTherefore, they must do it because they believe in their cause and believe that they are doing it to save their country from all of us.

      I agree. I suggest changing “their country” to “the world”, however. These people stopped being Americans a long, long time ago.

  • The internet may have made it easier to check some things, but other things were eaqsy to check before the internet. during the Reagan administration I got curious about all the fiscal and economic numbers being thrown around by the media and went to the small local library to do my own research. It took me about twenty minutes to find out that the media was full of spit. For several years thereafter I bought, at any local bookstore or drugstore/supermarket magazine rack, a copy of “The Statistical Abstract of The United States”. Sometimes it is easier to find things in a book than on the internet.

    Laziness and incompetence have damaged the media’s credibility, not lack of easy access to information.

    The internet’s contribution lies more in the area of facilitating communication than in making access to information easier. I shared the fruits of my research, but individuals have less credibility and less ability to communicate than an internet website.

  • Carroll hopes the increased scrutiny and accountability fostered by the Internet will lead to better journalism.

    “We’re in the early stages of a changing relationship between news organizations and consumers, who are becoming much more vocal about what they like, what they don’t and what they want to know,” Carroll wrote in a statement. “It’s not always pretty or pleasant, but that engagement can and does help improve coverage.”

    ROFLMOA!

    Does anybody believe that Carroll is being even remotely honest here? MiniTru has absolutely no interest in “improving coverage”. We saw their attitude in the wake of Dan Rather’s attempt to smear Bush prior to the ’04 election: instead of contrition and outrage that they’d been fooled, they responded with a storm of derision against the very people who, clad in their pajamas, discovered that the alleged memoes were fakes. This was accompanied by pompous announcements that MiniTru has “layers of editors and fact-checkers” that make it virtually IMPOSSIBLE for a MiniTru story to be anything other than the straight, complete, unbiased, unadulterated truth. To further rub it in, Dan Rather got an award the following year.

    More recently, we’ve seen MiniTru’s hagiographic coverage of TAO juxtaposed with their scornful, juvenile coverage of “teabaggers”. Just this weekend, ABC had a hissy fit about how many people showed up to the DC rally on 9-12: they wanted it to be crystal-clear that they NEVER said over a million people showed up. Normally, MiniTru is careful to bury its mistakes (such as by printing errors and retractions on the last page of the classifieds). Not so in this case!

    McQWhen the price of publishing dropped to the cost the price of an internet connection fee, the monopoly was broken. No longer consigned to letters to the editor (which may never be published), the people were able to speak out in various forums, but primarily through blogs. The result has been pretty stunning.

    George Orwell has observed that liberty waxes and wanes with the cost of military technology. For example, when the armored knight (an expensive “weapons system”) was dominant, liberty was at a low ebb. When the musket (a relatively inexpensive system) became dominant, liberty flourished. There is a parallel with the media. The blog is the information equivalent of the musket.

    Let freedom ring.

  • Until and unless the mainstream press drops their post-modernist philosophical basis, they won’t change.

    It’s no accident that the word “narrative” has now grown to dominate discussions of why the press covers what they do and how they cover it. Narrative is a post-modern concept.

    Several of you above are discussing if the left believes their positions are true. To evaluate that question requires the understanding of the post-modernist concept of truth, which is that there isn’t any objective truth, only opinion. Our own nutty professor and his preference for “multiple truths” is an example of someone who is so soaked in that profoundly anti-enlightenment ideal that they can’t really argue with an Enlightenment-based person. The worldviews are too different. Even the terms don’t mean the same thing.

    The big difference between the right-leaning blogosphere and the press isn’t that one is honest and one isn’t, or that one is biased and one isn’t, or even that they are biased in different ways. The big difference is that the worldview of the press is based in post-modernism and the worldview of the right-leaning blogosphere is based in the Enlightenment.

    • “Enlightenment-based person”??
      What is this?
      Thanks

      • The Age of Enlightenment (This overview is only fair, but it will do to start.)

        Once upon a time it was not possible to gain a college degree in liberal arts without understanding this stuff, typically through a course named “Western Civilization”. However, social science curricula have been so watered down in many colleges that it’s easy to get by without ever being exposed to it.

  • There is a good reason for people feeling this way. After all, when you have three major networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) reporting all the good that Emperor Obama is doing for us ungrateful jerks, when CNN is broadcasting racist bigotry from black anchors who see whitey as the real racists in the country for deigning to speak out against Herr Barry, and when you have a “network” (MSDNC) which is more of a “comedy” channel mixed in with documentaries on prison life (which someone at that channel seems to know a lot about), and all you have is Fox News reporting what is actually going on, people will be a bit miffed at the dimwits, loons and fruits who make up the “mainstream media” in America today.

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