Does The Press Still Have Credibility?

In case you missed it, an interesting new poll from the Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult finds that Americans perceive local news and network news outlets like ABC and CBS to be more credible than cable news outlets like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. 

The study ranked the major news outlets in terms of audience credibility, with ABC and CBS at the top (yet at only 63%). 

The Wall Street Journal was the highest rated newspaper — about 5 points below ABC/CBS, and just a touch higher than the New York Times

Interestingly, NPR and MSNBC were near the bottom — leaving us to wonder about other major newspaper sites, online-only news sites, wire services like AP and Thompson Reuters and PBS.

Another part of the study asked what news source folks most trusted. Radio came out on top, ahead of newspapers; then came network news, with cable news last.

I am trying to wrap my head around how radio could be tops in credibility with NPR ranked so low. I know there was a time years ago when many New Yorkers tuned in to the “all news all the time” radio station whenever major news was developing. But I was under the impression that between the rise of CNN and a mobile phone in every pocket or purse, that radio had been confined to what you were forced to listen to in cabs and elevators. I guess satellite radio and Bluetooth haven’t killed drive-time radio (yet).



I was somewhat heartened to see ABC, CBS and NBC maintain credibility with most audiences, given the endless charges of inaccuracy and fake news from the band of thieves and con artists occupying the current White House.  But since the approvals topped at 63%, that means that close to 40% of Americans do not find them credible. 

If you record, then watch, all three of the major network evening news programs, you would find they tend to have a slightly different take on any given major news story. One might have a better source or exclusive footage they bought off some kid with a cell phone pointed at the right place at the right time. Often several networks cite different stats, which is a function of early best-guessing or being told wrong information by sources. There is enormous competitive pressure to tell the story better than anyone else, which at times results in mistakes. That hurts credibility. 

Although they purport to strive for objectivity, the turn of a phrase by an on-scene reporter or studio anchor often signals a perhaps unintended POV. That hurts credibility. 

The choice of external “experts” who in their real lives might be affiliated with organizations with controversial views (or perhaps those you don’t like) also tend to hurt credibility and gives viewers a sense of bias by the network. 

What stories a network chooses to run (after the obligatory eight minutes of real news coverage from that day) can gives audiences a sense of bias. 

For example, if the segment celebrates a “breakthrough” in gender identity or gay marriage, it might seem to those on the right that since the story was not “hard” news, the choice to run it was evidence of network bias. 

Similarly, if a network pounds a story day after day (such as with the measles outbreak), it may appear to be a policy position rather than simply covering a continuing story (and yes, if you have not vaccinated your kids, you  ARE in fact an idiot and a menace to society).

Simply being owned by a conglomerate corporation, or being based in New York, or featuring more minority reporters than average can be interpreted as your news division being part of the Great Eastern Establishment Liberal Monied Jewish-Influenced media that cares more about ad revenue (and the leftist agenda) than it does accuracy. 

I have been a journalist or been around them most of my life, and understand how impossible their mandate is — but how hard they work (at least at reputable news outlets) to be fair, balanced and accurate. At times they even die protecting your right to be informed. 

We have by far the best press in the world (with the U.K. not far behind). We are lucky to live in a nation where freedom for members of the press to do their jobs is enshrined in foundation documents and tradition.  

They may not be perfect, but we are damned lucky to have them.

2 comments about "Does The Press Still Have Credibility?".
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  1. ROGER RUVOLO from 1951, April 15, 2019 at 2:20 a.m.

    Some good insights. One thing: It might be a little disingenuous to blame the credibility decline on con artists in the White House. Pop media have been losing print subs & online audience for many more years than just since 2016. We rated lower than used-car salesmen & lawyers for "admired profession" in a poll I remember from 25 or 30 years ago. 

    Also, some journalists truly do work hard to be objective. But a great number I've worked with (in newsrooms since the late 1960s) are plainly ax-grinders & some of those are quite proud of it. Audience can feel that. 

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, April 15, 2019 at 8:57 a.m.

    Thank you Roger and you are right. What you characterize  as ax grinding I would say is arrogance and a feeling of superiority over their "unwashed" audiences. It has been ever thus. But I would not attribute the fall off of subscribers to overly sensitive readers, but rather technology. Imperfect though it may be, it is on the whole, the best press in the world.

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