Badly. Really, people don't like us. At least that's the message from the latest Pew Research Center for People and the Press. Read the full reporte here.
Among the rock-bottom lows: the public's view of press accuracy has hit a two-decade low; well over half the respondents consider the news biased; and not even a quarter of the respondents consider the news to be independent of powerful influences. From the report:
Is this something a little bit of media literacy can cure? I have a feeling a lot of folks have a hard time distinguishing between commentary and reporting. And if they spend their news dime listening to those right-wing hooligans who bloviate on radio and TV, well, no wonder they consider the news to be biased. And in fact, among those who had the worst impression of the press itself, the majority were Fox News watchers.
Just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate. In the initial survey in this series about the news media’s performance in 1985, 55% said news stories were accurate while 34% said they were inaccurate. That percentage had fallen sharply by the late 1990s and has remained low over the last decade.
Similarly, only about a quarter (26%) now say that news organizations are careful that their reporting is not politically biased, compared with 60% who say news organizations are politically biased. And the percentages saying that news organizations are independent of powerful people and organizations (20%) or are willing to admit their mistakes (21%) now also match all-time lows.
Not surprising. Ever since Fox news went on the air pitching itself as "fair and balanced", a lot of people (smart enough to know that the slogan was just a clever name) assumed that every other news source tilted right or left as well, and went looking for it. And as political talk radio has proliferated, I can't help wondering if a good portion of the news audience only listens to he who preaches to the choir. Which also tends to taint your view of journalism. If, in fact, you consider that journalism.
Interestingly, runner-ups who saw bias in the news were those who got their news predominantly from the internet. Again, is it because they can't distinguish real reporting that has been vetted, that is based on objective news-gathering methods, from blogs and opinion essays? Hard to say. My definition of objective journalism is this: No horse in the race. And it has to do with methods, not whatever appears in the finished story. For a reporter -- overworked, underpaid and, see above, clearly unloved -- to purposely tank a story to fit an agenda is like some overpaid tall guy in the NBA purposely missing a layup.
All of which points to another reason why maybe media literacy should be a requisite in college, if not high school. You need to know how much work, and integrity (there, I said it) goes into producing a news story. bk