Pew News Survey

Trust in news media has reached a new low, with record numbers of Americans saying reporting is inaccurate, biased and shaped by special interests, according to a survey set to be released Monday.

The survey of 1,506 people interviewed in July by the Pew Research Center showed that self-described Republicans continued to take the dimmest view of news organizations, but discontent among Democrats was catching up.

On crucial measures of credibility, faith in news media eroded from the 1980s to the ’90s, then held fairly steady for several years, according to Pew surveys that have asked some of the same questions for more than two decades. But in the two years since the last survey, those views became markedly more negative.

I’m not sure if I’m surprised by this shift in public attitude.  I’ve never trusted the media, and it feels odd that the public has caught up with my cynicism.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, but it’s nice to see that this criticism of media is bipartisan.  At least, I should give credit to The New York Times for reporting that most people don’t trust their reporting.  I will say that I trust this particular instance of reporting because I’m a fan of Pew polls.

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller

Gerald Herbert, AP
News organizations still go to great lengths to be accurate, according to New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. But budget cuts mean “facts don’t get checked as carefully as they should,” he admitted.

The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

That hits the nail on the head.  The news probably was always untrustworthy, but the public was naively ignorant in the past.

When I was younger, I was indifferent to news.  I noticed the news, but I wasn’t a news junky.  I’m Gen X and I’ve never had any loyalty to newspapers even before I discovered the internet.

The funny thing is that I read newspaper articles more now on the internet than I ever did in the past.  I prefer the freedom of choice that internet offers over a physical newspaper.  Also, I never trust a single source and I always check out different views in the blogosphere.

To me, a professional news reporter is not necessarily any more trustworthy than an intelligent blogger.  I don’t judge people solely or even primarily based on their credentials.  I look for intelligence and insight where ever I find it.

I’m a cynical person in general and that informs my mistrust of all media, but this attitude doesn’t seem unusual for other GenXers.  I don’t even trust my local newspaper any more than I trust the major news media.  Journalists are just people with the same biases as everyone else.  Considering mainstream media, I have doubts that most journalists even try to get past their biases.  I don’t think most people intentionally lie, but few people are very self-aware.

What I’d like to see more of is investigative journalism.  Most journalism is just opinions and analysis, but I can get that from blogs.  What I can’t get from blogs is the type of journalism where someone spends immense amount of time, energy and money researching a subect and personally interveiwing various people.

Sadly, the news media seems to mostly to ignore this kind of journalism.  Most journalism seems just to be recycled news from other sources and it’s rare to see new facts and original insight.