News or Views? Does anyone trust the media?

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Newstands Seattle. (Image: Joe Mabel)

What do you expect from the news media? News or views?

When I set out to be a journalist, I didn’t worry much about what readers may or may not want. My duty, I believed, was to keep the public informed. As John Adams said: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.”

Working for The Associated Press in the early years of my career, we focused on getting the facts as accurately as we could and as fast as we could. The emphasis was on objectivity, never writing in the first person and striving not to inject your own views.

That now sounds quaint. While legacy news outlets like the AP still focus on reporting fairly and accurately, the public looks at all news as biased in one way or another.

A Gallup/Knight study released this week said it found “deepening pessimism and further partisan entrenchment about how the news media delivers on its democratic mandate for factual, trustworthy information. Many Americans feel the media’s critical role of informing and holding those in power accountable is compromised by increasing bias. As such, Americans have not only lost confidence in the ideal of an objective media, they believe news organizations actively support the partisan divide.”

Among the study’s many interesting findings, this one stood out to me: that given the choice “more Americans say they are concerned about bias in the news other people are getting (69%) than say they worry about their own news being biased (29%).”

And yet, the study also confirmed that the majority of those polled still “value the media’s traditional roles in society, such as providing accurate news and holding powerful interests accountable for their actions.”

The problem, however, is that they don’t think we’re doing a particularly good job.

For more findings, you can read the executive summary which includes a link to download the full report on “American Views 2020: Trust, Media and Democracy.”

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