US just finished dead last among 46 countries in media trust — here’s why
The U.S. media is the least trustworthy in the world, according to a comprehensive new Reuters Institute survey encompassing 46 countries.
Yes, you read that right. The country with among the most resources in this arena – human, technical and otherwise – finished dead last. Finland ranked the highest, with a 65 percent trust rating. In Kenya, the trust rating clocked in at 61 percent.
But here in the U.S.A., the home of global media giants including the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN, we’re trusted by a whopping 29 percent of those reading and watching.
Is anyone really surprised? Because in looking at polls over the past few years (even pre-Donald Trump) we’ve been trending in this dubious direction for some time.
For example, one Axios/Survey Monkey poll in 2019 found that nearly 8-in-10 independent voters said they believed that news organizations report news “they know to be fake, false or purposely misleading.” Ninety-two percent of Republicans felt the same way, as did even a majority of Democrats.
Which means readers and viewers believe that the “mistakes” we so often see, particularly in the political media that dominates the national landscape, are not happening because of human error, which is a convenient excuse offered up from left-leaning “journalists” when “bombshell” reports end up being false, fake or purposely misleading.
Russian collusion with the Trump campaign? The Mueller Report didn’t find proof of that despite all the “evidence” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) claimed he had but never produced. That “story” dominated the first three years of the Trump era regardless, so that two-thirds of Democratic voters believe the Russians actually altered vote tallies to tip the election from Hillary Clinton to Trump.
How about the bombshell Russian bounties of U.S. troops? Never happened.
There hasn’t been a more widespread or pernicious conspiracy theory in recent memory than “Russian bounties.” It was always thinly sourced and disputed. Yet it was treated as the gospel truth because Orange Man Bad.
Where are the corrections? Where are the retractions?
— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) April 15, 2021
How about that COVID-19 came from a Wuhan lab that studies coronaviruses and engages in gain-of-function research? We’ve gone from reckless conspiracy theory to somebody like Jon Stewart appearing on The Late Show with Steven Colbert to make the argument that it’s a very real possibility.
I could go on and on but have finite space here. For dozens of more examples, check out Sharyl Attkisson’s comprehensive list of media malfeasance over the past few years. She’s currently up to 156 examples.
But it wasn’t always this way. Back in 1976, in the days of anchors such as Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, David Brinkley and Roger Mudd, nearly three-quarters of the country trusted the media, according to Gallup.
Fast forward to 2021, and the likes of Chris Cuomo, Jim Acosta, Brian Williams and Yamiche Alcindor are given the same prestigious titles of anchor or correspondent.
These aren’t anchors, of course, they’re patently partisan opinion hosts. All share their feelings, their opinions – which always support the blue team – and pass it off as objective news reporting. Which, of course, is an insult to those who have eyes and ears and brains.
And trust is like toothpaste: Once it’s out of the tube, it’s impossible to regain. Example: The New York Times hasn’t endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in 65 years, which means the so-called paper of record endorsed Walter Mondale in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988, who lost a combined 89 states.
Talk about being out of touch. The Washington Post has never endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in its history. CNN – once a beacon of solid, objective reporting in the Bernard Shaw/Gulf Wars era – has become a parody of itself in losing nearly 75 percent of its audience since the beginning of the year, an unprecedented drop.
In other words, don’t expect the new Cronkites and Brinkleys of the world to swoop in and save journalism in the U.S. anytime soon.
Fortunately, the news we get on the local level has remained largely unchanged. Viewers get the big stories regarding crime, human interest, sports and the weather. Trust in local news hasn’t changed much since 1976. The reason? Local news almost always keeps opinion out of its reporting, while national political media injects plenty of it, invariably in support of Democratic efforts, into stories outside of op-ed sections and in actual news stories.
One of the best studies on the move to opinion came in a 2019 RAND Corporation report that analyzed content from 15 print and television outlets over nearly three decades (1989 to 2017).
The newspapers studied were The New York Times, Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, while CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC were analyzed on the TV front. Digital journalism was represented by Politico, The Blaze, Breitbart News, BuzzFeed Politics, The Daily Caller and The Huffington Post.
“The findings point to a gradual and subtle shift over time and between old and new media toward a more subjective form of journalism that is grounded in personal perspective,” reads RAND’s conclusion.
Not exactly facts first, but feelings first.
The U.S. is the least-trusted country of 46 when it comes to the way consumers view the news. If that isn’t a wake-up call for the industry, I’m not sure what would be.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill and a Fox News contributor.
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