They say that all politics is local, and a new poll suggests that when it comes to trusting their TV news sources, Americans feel the same way.
A new Quinnipiac poll provides the nation's opinion about various news networks and the degree to which Americans trust the news content they see and hear.
On the national level, liberals were aghast to find that Fox News ranks No. 1 as the most trusted source of news among the various national networks.
Of course, pundits were picking apart the crosstabs of the poll, trying to prove how the support for Fox came from Republicans and older viewers. But the fact is that Fox held very respectable numbers among independent and younger voters as well. And no, the poll was not unfairly weighted toward GOP-leaning viewers.
But there were plenty of news networks on the survey's list, and opinions were of course scattered all over. Perhaps the only other decisive opinion as to trust of national news networks was the relatively dismal level of support received by MSNBC. Perhaps Al Sharpton is not viewed as this generation's Water Cronkite after all.
The other big takeaway from this survey was the level to which respondents said they trust their local news affiliates in general. Trust for local TV news was right up there with the most trusted major networks.
I think I know why. Since 1998, I have had the opportunity to work with three different news affiliates in a top-10 media market. All three produce high-quality news programming. And as I travel I have noticed the continued improvement of local news, whether in smaller media markets or the largest.
Yes, local affiliates chase ambulances, murders and mayhem. But that's simply part of covering what people are interested in within their own communities. Local news operations still go out of their way to highlight the everyday type of stories that the big networks simply can't, because of time constraints and a need to cover national and international topics.
But what I believe is reflected in these numbers is something that is true for most TV stations around the nation. Because local TV news must quickly react to stories to fill up increasingly longer newscasts, there simply is not time for producers or talent to sit around creating agendas -- political or otherwise.
In the three newsrooms where I have worked, I have never, ever seen a news director, producer or other person with a voice in what is to be aired try to push some political agenda. In fact, other than occasional off-handed remarks that gave some clue, it has always been close to impossible to know how the people in these newsrooms vote.
Since the majority of national journalists in America "lean to the left," it is amazing that the same phenomenon is hard to discern in most local newsrooms. It may well be that a survey of local television reporters, producers and directors might mirror one of the national journalists. But it would have to be revealed by a secret poll, because otherwise there is little if any political opinion discussed in putting together most local newscasts.
The other positive for local affiliates is that they are truly local, in the sense that if they appear biased or to have an agenda, their local viewers let them know it quickly. And because there are so many choices in local television news, viewers can quickly change stations. Unlike many cities where one or two newspapers dominate the written news, local TV is just too competitive for any one station to show even indirect support to one political party over another.
Yes, local TV can at times seem to have targets, particularly with their investigative teams. But generally speaking they are apolitical in motive.
And just as local news continues to expand, so do networks, such as the new Newsmax TV, which has entered the national scene.
One thing is for sure: Television news will continue to evolve as we enter the next era of handheld broadcasts. And that's a challenge for both local and national news organizations as trustworthiness will be judged by a whole new generation of viewers.