News Media: Better Than You Think

According to the Knight Foundation, Americans believe 39% of the news they see on television, read in the newspapers or hear on the radio is misinformation. They estimate that nearly two-thirds of the news they see on social media is misinformation.

Moreover, Americans believe that 62% of the news they see on television, read in newspapers and hear on the radio is biased, and that 44% of news reporting is inaccurate.

So around half of us think traditional news channel stories are either misinformation, biased or inaccurate.

Sadly, trust in the mainstream media has been trending downward for a very long time. And the Russia tampering and a White House full of enfants terribles, who blame the media every time they screw up (which is pretty much daily), has only accelerated the erosion.

Most Americans are pretty lazy and tend to accept at face value what they see on TV or social media, especially if it jibes with their personal world views. They read less and less — especially books that might give them some historical perspective on how the world got this way. They have also abandoned the habit of reading the newspaper every day (or, even better, two or three different papers, so they can compare how news organizations report the same story). So while folks complain about the media, they are not willing to do the work necessary to help separate the wheat from the chaff for themselves.



It’s well known that people gravitate toward media they agree with.  If, for example, you watch Fox News, you are probably already prone to think its pro-Trump agenda is entirely appropriate and not problematic -- and you would be wrong. News shouldn't have a point of view. But of course, much of it does.

Often news media executives reveal their POV simply in their choice of stories. Like any business, they want to appeal to their consumers, and tend toward stories they think would best satisfy reader expectations.

With breaking news, media companies tend to stay with the who, what, where, when and why approach to traditional journalism. This leaves little room for interpretation or bias — but in picking what features to run, newspapers in particular reveal their POV, which some will see as bias — or as the survey called it: "misinformation or biased or inaccurate."  At least that's what you call it if "too liberal" or "too conservative" don't make enough of a statement.

The mission of a traditional news organization is not necessarily to make you happy and support your world view, even if you have been a longtime subscriber or viewer. It is to report the news. This means, for example, developments in Africa — although today you might not think they are important. Or long, boring stories on trade wars or the economy in general — because they help you stayed informed. Editors know that you don't like those kinds of stories, but feel it’s their job to help you understand the world a little better.

I agree that the notion of what is news has changed with the times. The advent of POV cable news had a profound effect on how folks see the world, and the internet has opened up a whole new way to be misinformed.

But know this: I have been around professional journalists all my life, and I can tell you that the better of them do everything in their power to eliminate bias, misinformation and inaccuracy. They are human beings so they make mistakes, but those are less common than you think as reflected in your opinions about today's news business. Trust means everything to good journalists, and most work hard to earn and keep it.

Now you need to do your part and stop believing every stupid thing you see online or hear on Fox News and dig in a little deeper (easy with the internet in your hand). In the end, you will find that the U.S. news media is actually pretty damned good.

3 comments about "News Media: Better Than You Think".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 29, 2018 at 9:09 a.m.

    Such precise stats, George---like 39% of TV news is believable. I wonder how they determined that figure? Did they show respondents a random sample of, say, 500, news items and ask them---one by one---if each was believable? Somehow I doubt that. Just curious.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, June 29, 2018 at 10:11 a.m.

    I wasn't so concerned about their methodology as I was the trend toward increased loss of trust in news media and notions of "misinformation" and "inaccurate." 

  3. Michael Giuseffi from American Media Inc, June 29, 2018 at 1:51 p.m.

    It's no surprise that trust in the media is so low when you have the leader of the nation calling the best journalists and news sources "enemies of the people" and his cheerleaders on the completely biased FOX and Sinclair creating fear and glorifying him at every turn.

    We are in trouble.

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