In the course of doing research curiosity brought me to look into the public perception of the press in this country, to see where we stand regarding our collective attitude towards journalism. I came to find a recent national survey has been conducted, and the results were ugly. Little surprise that the media in general were less than enthusiastic to report on findings revealing a general rebuke on their industry. There was no surprise to see this survey provoked delusional thinking.
Last month the marketing and PR firm Edelman released its annual report on public perception of various industries, called its Trust Barometer. In regards to the mainstream press it was ugly. For the first time ever measured, more than half of Americans agreed that "Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations." Slightly more believed that news outlets are beholden to a political ideology than in reporting facts to the public.
Anyone looking at these dismal results and theorizing that Donald Trump’s hammering of the news outlets is a leading cause, Edelman conducted this survey over time and these numbers actually eroded further following the election of Joe Biden.
What is most revealing/amusing is the abject denial this provoked. Axios was granted some first-look details from Edelman and the conclusions they draw reveal the media are in no position to look in a mirror for solutions. The first example of denial comes in this early statement: "Faith in society's central institutions, especially in government and the media, is the glue that holds society together."
I cannot think of a time when faith in the government has been a strong number. Most pragmatic thinkers have a healthy cynicism towards our leadership. And if anyone is expecting the media to hold this country together all you need to do is look at how many in the press are throwing around the terms sedition and treason with wild abandon in an attempt to smear just about anyone on the right.
Consider the actions of the press in just the past few months. Looking beyond the puppy-like quest for affection the press has held towards Joe Biden, there are numerous specific examples of major flaws in the industry. The New York Times followed up its embarrassment from The 1619 Project with the news that its Pulitzer-winning podcast series "Caliphate" was exposed as a complete sham. CNN came out on Biden’s first full day in office declaring Donald Trump had no vaccine distribution plan - a pure lie fed by the White House. Then there was The Washington Post claiming a radio syndicate was silencing conservative talk hosts, names who were not in the employment of the company.
Axios continued with the smoke blowing for their own benefit. "News organizations have historically relied mainly on advertising income, and as those dollars flow increasingly to Google and Facebook, that has created institutional weakness that shows up in trust data." How this theory works, exactly, is not explained. Sure, many news outlets are struggling financially over the last generation, but that hardly explains a loss of trust with the public, something that is more rooted in the actual practice of misinformation we regularly get delivered.
At The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan addressed this as well, showing she is another high-minded journalist who does not get it. "Our goal should go beyond merely putting truthful information in front of the public. We should also do our best to make sure it’s widely accepted." So Sullivan wants to not only get her truth presented, she also needs to work on making those rubes in the audience understand how this is best for them.
Axios was also bothered that CEOs have some of the highest trust ratings; you know, those people who actually manage to keep the country operating economically and providing people with reliable employment. So the solution, we are told, is to have those CEOs fix the problem the media has created.
"Media outlets can continue to report reliable facts, but that won't turn the trend around on its own. What's needed is for trusted institutions to visibly embrace the news media. CEOs have long put themselves forward as the people able to upgrade America's physical infrastructure. Now it's time for them to use the trust they've built up to help rebuild our civic infrastructure."
This pretty much explains that nothing is learned from this data. The approach of, We broke it, you fix it is steeped in obliviousness. Pointing at others while refusing to adjust the blatant practices that have led to these results only means the trend downward for the press will only continue.