Commentary

U.S. Viewers Trust -- And Don't Trust -- TV News

Fox News has recently come out as the most trusted -- and the least trusted -- news organization, according to a recent study by Sacred Heart University.

U.S. viewers are  a polarized lot. The group that trusts a lot isn't the group that trusts so little. CNN came in second place as the most trusted. (They came in fourth place on the least trusted question).

Fox News is also one of the most-viewed cable networks -- not just among TV news networks, but entertainment channels, sports channels, home improvement channels, and mixed marital arts channels.

What does that tell you? That Fox News must be great viewing -- for some. Fox was most trusted, at 30% of its respondents -- as well as least trusted, at 26.2%. As far the other networks are concerned, there were fewer emotional swings on both ends of the trust spectrum.

For TV advertisers, all this seems necessary information. It plays into audience metric lexicon of "engagement" that major TV advertiser have tossed around in recent years.

In the same study, Bill O'Reilly, perhaps the primary face of Fox News, was ranked in the middle of the pack when it came to news anchors and trust -- Charles Gibson (19.8%), Brian Williams (17.3%), Katie Couric (9.9%), Bill O'Reilly (9.3%), Tom Brokaw (8.0%) and Jim Lehrer (2.4%).

Other studies might show a more consistent approach when it comes to the whole "trust" issue. But the more complex picture tells a lot more. It says U.S. viewers are desperate for accurate news and information.

For example, 54.0% said they believe "some" news media reporting, while 20.4% believing "little or no news' media reporting." That doesn't leave much left of those who believe in "most" news reporting overall.

How does Sacred Heart rectify this? It comes down to an overall opinion of viewers not really trusting any news organization.

"The American people have become increasingly skeptical and suspicious towards institutions which they perceive as distant and manipulative," say the authors of the report. "Small wonder that the media, which is now controlled by a handful of large corporations, is perceived in such a negative light."

3 comments about "U.S. Viewers Trust -- And Don't Trust -- TV News".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 29, 2009 at 1:09 p.m.

    It's hard to trust TV news when most of the networks go out of their way to ignore stories embarrassing to Obama. The most recent example is a very recent rebuke by French President Sarkozy of President Obama's naivete:
    http://www.docstoc.com/docs/12066453/obama-sarkozy-pdf
    But the story didn't appear in the New York Times, so the networks didn't play follow-the-leader! Life was easier for journalists with Bush to attack:
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Without-Bush-media-lose-interest-in-war-caskets-8310113-62427012.html

    Before non-mainstream media like drudgereport.com came along, many of were unaware of the holes in pro-Obama media coverage from ABC, NBC, CBS. Or as Mason Williams called it in his famous "The Censor" poem, "a pattern of ideas, full of holes, a doily for your mind."

  2. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, September 30, 2009 at 9:12 a.m.

    First off Fox News is not truthful. Just because someone believes it is doesn't mean it is. That being said I think often Cable News is slanted vs Network News which obviously was not included in this survey. Now for some perspective. Fox News is watched by about 1% of the US population. The other cable news outlets combined reach just over 1%. Fox is watched by Conservatives and Religious Conservatives while the other outlets are watched mostly by Independents and Progressives.

    Interestingly enough all of News Corps Print and Cable News is very biased based on Rupert Murdoch's wishes. Even the WSJ has become slanted by him. and there is a good reason...money. He knows his slant sells. He preys on fear and hate and he knows that gets him viewers and readers. One of his close friends stated this year in an article on Rupert that if he could make more money with a blatantly liberal slant he would switch formats in less than a heart beat. I mean is the National Enquirer can sell and be profitable we know Fox will be successful! We all live in fantasy lands of our own making and choosing and migrate to those outlets that reinforce our own walled garden. And yes this goes for people of all social leanings.

    I actually feel watched news is on the decline. I am an avid reader of news online and the only TV News I watch is Jon Stewart's and the Huffington Post's video clips!

  3. Thomas Dolata from WILX-TV, September 30, 2009 at 10:48 a.m.

    You can cry all you want that the major cable news networks pander to the Murdock philosophy of continuing to dumb down the product. Serious affronts to journalism on a national level continue and dare I say that technology or the assortment of ex-journalism faces on cable (i.e. Op-Ed structuralists) will not save it but push the decline further.

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