Commentary

More News Outlets -- And Less Confidence?

Public confidence in traditional sources of news and information -- newspapers and TV news shows -- is at an all-time low. All this while there is more access to news content than ever before.

Around 23% of U.S. citizens have a “great deal” or “quite a lot of confidence” in these two traditional news formats. This is from a new Gallup study which also notes that newspapers had a 40% confidence level in 1990 and TV 43% in 1993.

All this isn’t very surprising, especially with TV news, given the sometimes erratic and loud nature of where news reporting can be found these days.

The trend started to accelerat around 2007, says Gallup, due to growing Internet platforms, especially social network sites. The study points to Twitter, which launched in 2006 and a year or so later was growing rapidly. Facebook had 30 million users by mid-2007 and more than 100 million by the end of 2008.

Gallup did not ask about the confidence levels of Internet news platforms, which would have been perhaps a more interesting result.  Why?  The rise of Internet and digital Internet news has fostered criticism about flimsy news content on these news platforms, especially content that is repeated or repurposed from other news sources, with perhaps a different slant. Not everyone is a “journalist,” and that’s something that should be factored into the equation.

So confidence levels are low for TV and newspapers, and possibly suspect for digital platforms. Do consumers identify social media as their primary source of news content or rather use it for more personal media content consumption?

Fractionalizing news content -- and media content overall -- means many work to shout the loudest, or to have the most blazing content. In part, more balanced, less hyped news content also needs a high-profile marketing fix -- just to keep a decent business model going.

Yet, more efforts are being made to get into the news business. Al-Jazeera recently bought Current, which will re-start as Al-Jazeera America. CNN’s new senior executive -- former NBC president Jeff Zucker – is looking to shake up things and has already started a new morning show, “New Day,” to initial modest results.

So there’s more news content overall. Shouldn’t that be good news?

Nope. Gallup says: “While individual news consumers have better access to news and to journalists than ever before, the struggles of the news industry seem to be affecting Americans' confidence in it.”

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