Not so long ago a couple of journalism professors from the University of North Dakota wrote a column in the Grand Forks Herald objecting to my disdain for “traditional journalism.” In my rebuttal, my pointed to a Gallup poll showing record-high levels of distrust in traditional media outlets like newspapers and television news.
Today Gallup has updated that poll, and the level of distrust is even higher, driven mostly by decline in trust from Republicans and independents:
Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004. …
This year’s decline in media trust is driven by independents and Republicans. The 31% and 26%, respectively, who express a great deal or fair amount of trust are record lows and are down significantly from last year. Republicans’ level of trust this year is similar to what they expressed in the fall of 2008, implying that they are especially critical of election coverage.
What’s driving this distrust in media, I believe, are the things proponents of “traditional journalism” think is best. The pretense of objectivity, as one example, and a total lack of transparency about the biases held by a media outlet and/or its reporters.
The rise of internet media, which has brought more competition and diversification to media, has exposed that nobody is really objective. Everybody has their biases. When bias is manifest and palpable to news consumers, but “traditional journalists” continue to claim they’re objective, the public loses faith.
What journalism needs is more transparency and honesty.