Do you trust the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly? Odds are you don’t. A record-high majority of Americans have little or no trust in the media, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday afternoon.
Last year, a record 56% of Americans said they don’t trust mass media; this year, it’s up another percentage point to 57%. On the other side of the question, the 43% of Americans who said they have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the mass media ties a record low.
Here’s a scary note for news managers: the public’s trust in media is now even lower than its trust in the executive and judicial branches of government. And a separate Gallup poll found little confidence in newspapers, too.
Not quite half of those polled said the media are too liberal; about a third say the balance is just about right; and about 15% think the media are too conservative. But no matter how you scramble the egg, more than half – 63% - say there’s bias one way or the other.
And, no real surprise here, the more education and income you have, the less likely you are to trust the mass media.
In the four decades that I worked in broadcast news management, I seldom found overt bias in the work of those I supervised. To be fair, though, most of them were younger people, who tend to be more liberal, and were trained to be careful to attempt to “balance” their stories. I do recall one strident episode back in the mid-90’s, when I left my office to check on things in the newsroom, and overheard a couple young reporters talking about how they were going to write and run certain stories to air during the Rush Limbaugh show “just to piss off all the right-wing freaks”.
I suggested they might do better in their career if they left the news department and applied with the programming department to host a talk show, so they could “balance” Rush with their brilliant insights, and mentioned that it might be important to their future to remember the bright line between “news” and “talk”, a distinction lost on far too many listeners these days.