By Zach Garner, freelance journalist, SPJ student member and SPJ Region 3 intern
The people don’t trust the media.
It is a bitter pill to swallow, but let’s choke it down together. Bourbon helps.
According to one recent study conducted by the Morning Consult, the average American trusts Donald Trump’s administration to tell the truth more than the press.
In fact, 72 percent of Republicans trust the White House compared to the 10 percent that trust the press. Out of all Americans polled, regardless of political leanings, a whopping 34 percent don’t know who to trust anymore — at all.
Trust in the media is at an all-time low. Our good name as public servants, marred. Yet, according to Quinnipiac University Poll, 39 percent of Americans think “most media personnel” are honest. Compared to most studies, these numbers are actually in our favor. The results are mixed depending on where you are looking.
People trust the media as much as I trust Lenny Kravitz with a deep lunge in leather pants.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you fall into the aforementioned “press” category and chances are even higher you’ve heard these stats before. If you weren’t familiar, I am sorry you had to find out this way. Just check social media or listen to anything that Donald Trump says — there is a war on the media, and it looks like we’re losing it.
I can’t say that I can blame the public. There is a lot of finger-pointing directed at the perceived “dishonest media” these days. Talk of bias, purposely withholding sources and my personal favorite, fake news — trusted sources like CNN and New York Times are having their good names dragged through the mud.
News consumers and providers, alike, are more concerned with proving the other side wrong rather than seeking the truth.
Whether you swing to the left or the right can dictate a lot about the media you consume. But both sides seem to be stuck in a screaming match. News consumers and providers, alike, are more concerned with proving the other side wrong rather than seeking the truth.
Have you listened or read the news lately?
The message from the media is clouded and muddled. The national media is sifting through the whirlwind of accusations flung by the President, trying to keep their heads above water. Everyday consumers and mainstream media providers, alike, are making it hard for the American people to know who to believe.
Regardless of your thoughts on the President or his practices, one has to acknowledge the fact that journalism is not being painted in a flattering light. Look at this 1970s Gallup Poll measuring the popularity of the press during the Watergate era compared to where we are today. This isn’t exactly a new trend.
“Over the history of the entire trend, Americans’ trust and confidence hit its highest point in 1976, at 72 percent, in the wake of widely lauded examples of investigative journalism regarding Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. After staying in the low to mid-50s through the late 1990s and into the early years of the new century, Americans’ trust in the media has fallen slowly and steadily. It has consistently been below a majority level since 2007.”
Younger Americans (18-49 year-olds) used to trust the media more than their older counterparts. The year 2001 represented an all time high with 55 percent of younger Americans expressing trust and confidence in mass media. As time has gone by, that trust has gone into decline. By 2016, that number dropped to 26 percent.
Younger Americans represent the future of the country and the next generation of news consumers. Their trust is who we need it from the most. But it looks like their “trust” might be dwindling.
In short — it’s not great. But not all is lost.
Along with many other aspiring journalists, I graduated a few months ago with a degree in Journalism and Media Production from Washington State University. Breathe Mom. Frankly, I’m too young to have an ulcer, yet, and these numbers are giving me hypertension. So, I’d like to take a moment, sit down and explain to everyone why exactly you and I should place faith in journalism. This is important so we can make more informed decisions moving forward in our careers and, hopefully, start digging ourselves out of its hole.
And more importantly, so I can still have a job in the morning.
Watch for Zach Garner’s next article as he dives into why young (and veteran) journalists might want to go back to the basics by taking another look at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.