"The traditional media in this country is in tune with the elite, not the people."
- Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, News Corporation, in the Sept. 26 Wall Street Journal.
That sums up the public perception of the definers and disseminators of what is called "news" in this country. The media perform mostly for themselves and their elite friends, not the people they presume to serve. This attitude is responsible for the loss of viewers and readers. The media appear willing to go down with the ship, rather than let someone throw them a lifeline.
The lack of trust has moved beyond fringe groups to the mainstream. According to two recent polls - one by the Gallup organization and the other by Rasmussen - the public's perception of the media's credibility has declined to the point where a substantial and growing number of people see the major newspapers and networks as biased in favor of John Kerry.
The Gallup poll, conducted after the CBS "60 Minutes" piece on George Bush's Texas National Guard records, but before the network apologized for using fraudulent documents, concluded that "just 44 percent of Americans express confidence in the media's ability to report news stories accurately and fairly."
That marks a "significant drop" from 54 percent expressing confidence only a year ago. The poll also found that 48 percent of Americans view the news media as "too liberal," while 15 percent view it as "too conservative."
The Rasmussen poll says many more viewers regard the three broadcast networks and CNN as biased in favor of Kerry, with CBS "seen as the most biased - 37 percent believe that network news team is trying to help the Kerry campaign" - compared to only 10 percent who believe CBS is trying to aid the president.
Rasmussen also found the big newspapers - The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post - suffer from a perception that they favor Kerry, with the Times leading the pack with 35 percent of respondents saying they think it's biased.
It will surprise a lot of people - it surprised me - that, according to Gallup, "those with lower levels of education and income are more likely to have confidence in the media's accuracy and fairness." Most media people believe it is the uneducated who trust them the least. You know, those "ignoramuses" who rely on talk radio to tell them what to think.
Journalism is the only profession of which I am aware that ignores public attitudes. How long could a restaurant stay in business if it had bad food, dirty restrooms, high prices and lousy service, especially if a competitor opened across the street with everything the other place doesn't have?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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