Study: Not All Readers Share Journalism's Core Values

Journalists share a core set of values. But many readers do not, according to the study “A new way of looking at the trust in media: Do Americans share journalism’s core values?” It was released Wednesday by the Media Insight Project.

In fact, core journalism supporters — those who believe most strongly in the media — make up only 20% of the total audience. 

Moreover, only 11% of Americans fully support all five journalistic values: oversight, factualism, giving voice to the less powerful, social criticism and transparency.

Yet one core journalistic principle — factualism — is supported by 67%. However, only 29% agree that society can be improved if its problems are reported.

Overall, 40% say the media is trustworthy, and 37% that it is not. And while 60% believe the news is accurate, 25 say it is “not too accurate.”

In addition, 60% say the press tries to cover up its mistakes. 



Democrats and Republicans flip on whether the press is trustworthy, with 64% saying it is and 63% of Republicans believing the opposite. 

But contrary to what some might believe, this uneasiness with journalistic values has less to do with politics than with moral instincts, the study notes.  

For instance, “some people often associated with having more liberal political views (such as Democrats, women, or people of color), are hesitant about some core journalistic values,” the study reports. They often want a more partisan approach. 

The study identified four groups: Upholders, Core Journalism Supporters, Moralists and the Indifferent. 

People who put more stock in authority and loyalty — the Upholders — are more skeptical of the press. 

While 60% of these individuals believe the news they see is accurate, only 33 believe news media are trustworthy. Worse, a mere 15% thinks the press cares about them, and 13% that it is moral. 

Breaking it down, 50% of the Upholders are Republicans, 30% are Democrats and 20% are independents. 

In general, 43% apiece identify themselves as conservatives or moderates, and 14% as liberals.

Of the strong core supporters, 83% believe news is accurate, and 58% feel it is trustworthy.

Yet only 26% thinks the media are moral, and a mere 24% feel that news providers care about people like them. And this group is the most liberal. '

Moralists—people who believe in such values as care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and purity—are also skeptical on these points. While 76% believe the news is trustworthy, only 20% feel the media care about people like them, are moral 22%) or believe the press protects democracy (35%).

Two studies were conducted: 2,727 people were polled between Nov. 22 and Dec. 15, 2019, and another 1,555 in August 2020. 

The Media Insight Project is a joint venture of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
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