In Distrust We Trust

notrustAnnual Gallup poll shows our confidence in American media continues to slide.

Okay, America, we have a trust issue.

“Trust in the media remains at record low levels, according to a new report from the polling firm Gallup,” writes D. B. Hebbard in Talking New Media. “In its annual report on the media, only 40 percent of Americans say they trust US media either a great deal or a fair amount.”

A bit surprisingly, the overall trust level in younger Americans – lower than the general population since 2011 – did climb a bit but not significantly.

The Gallup study measures how confident we are that the mass media are reporting the news “fully, accurately and fairly.” Only four in 10 Americans, according to Gallup, have “a great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in mass media’s news reporting. The high-water mark for media trust was in the late ‘90s when 55% of us responded positively.

Political persuasion seems to have a role in how we perceive mass media, as Hebbard notes.

“While 55 percent of Democrats say they trust the media … only 32 percent of Republicans say the same – though this is actually up five points from last year, an election year. Independents, though, now distrust the media nearly as much as Republicans,” he writes.

Hebbard points out a delicious irony in this whole trust thing. “It should be noted, though I’m sure Gallup would prefer it not, that in the last Presidential election cycle, Gallup was deemed the least accurate of all the polling services.”

We have to wonder if part of this mistrust comes from the increasing amount of business pressure in the editorial process. We know people mistrust sponsored content, and the prevalence of this tactic in media business models is only growing.

At the end of the day, what happens to the news when the story is framed by the sponsor or other vested interests, rather than presenting an objective look at the truth? What’s left if we take the heart out of journalism?

The media has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the American public. And while we hope that mainstream journalism survives it’s up to publishers to recognize the danger or risk becoming obsolete to the serious discussions of this country’s future.

In Distrust We Trust – Part 2