Americans lose confidence in media delivering news objectively
The American public has lost trust in their media’s capability of delivering unbiased news, a worrying development for any functioning democracy, according to a recent poll.
The key finding of “low levels of public trust in the nation’s polarized media environment” arrived in a survey last month by the Knight Foundation and Gallup Inc., which tracks public sentiment about media.
Pollsters found a general consensus that the media was necessary to ward off misinformation, but few Americans believe the press is doing it properly.
“Most Americans have lost confidence in the media to deliver the news objectively,” said Sam Gill, Knight’s senior vice president and chief program officer.
“This is corrosive for our democracy.”
According to the poll, more Republicans (71%) than Democrats (22%) and independents (52%) have unfavorable opinions of the media.
Over 4 out of 5 Americans (86%) say news outlets push a political viewpoint rather than report bias-free news.
“It basically is confirming what various other studies have shown,” Penny Muse Abernathy, the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, told The Washington Times.
“I think that it’s what we found over and over and over again is when you’re not getting local news, your only source of news is either television or the internet, and 90% of what you get is going tone national in scope,” Ms. Abernathy said.
Meanwhile, industry observers say the distrust in the media is not new but increasingly sustained.
Gallup has tracked mounting skepticism toward mainstream media since the 1990s.
However, the percentage of Americans seeing bias in the media has calcified, particularly among Republicans.
The poll reveals an increasing share of younger Americans opts for online news rather than television or print.
The results show a growing disenfranchisement for millennials and Gen Z.
“Americans who primarily access their news online — predominantly, younger Americans — are less likely to be knowledgeable about their local communities and to feel attached to their communities,” said Tuesday’s report.
Some industry observers pointed questions about the underlying premise in the poll.
Jeff Jarvis, writer, and professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, tweeted:
“What’s so grating about this is that we never should have promised objectivity. Failing to deliver that false god is inevitable.”
“It was a lie.”
Associate professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Jennifer Moore, said organizations are often held to the standard of “objectivity,” but such a “myth” is a standard not fully reflecting the job of good reporting.
“I tell students they [as reporters] need to be fair in their reports and seek the truth and tell the truth,” Ms. Moore told The Times.
“But what’s the objective way of reporting on enslavement? Or structural racism?”
“Is there two sides to that story? We need to do a better job as a society to go back to some civics classes and learn about the news media and the relationship of journalism to democracy.”