Trust and Credibility Issues Growing for Journalists

Last fall a Gallup poll found that Americans’ trust in mass media had reached a new low at 32%. A new study out this week led Politico to write a story with the following headline: “Poll: 46 percent think media make up stories about Trump“.  Here’s the question that produced the polling data.

Of course President Trump tweeted the poll results blaming the media’s loss of credibility on what he labels “fake news.”

Even if you’re not a journalist this should be cause for concern, and here’s why. Journalism is a profession that serves the public by reporting the news of the day with fairness and accuracy. It is important that reporters get their information from multiple reliable sources, contextualize the facts based on other relevant information, and present it to the public in a timely manner. It is good to be fast, but never at the expense of being right…in other words, journalists need to take time to double-check their facts and do everything within their power to strive for accuracy. If they make a mistake there should be a correction and an apology. If they make too many mistakes, they become accountants (sorry, I couldn’t resist). No seriously, if they screw up too many times they’ll be looking for a new profession.

For news reporters (as opposed to commentators) it is also important that they make every effort to set aside their personal beliefs in order to report the facts without bias. No reporter can do this perfectly, but s/he must work tirelessly to eliminate bias that constantly tries to insert itself into the story. After reading a story from a seasoned journalist you should be unable to ascertain that reporter’s beliefs about politics or any other number of personal choices that they’ve made.*

In journalism, fabrication is a fireable offense. There are many journalists whose names will go down in infamy because they fabricated stories…in whole or in part. Here’s a top-10 list that should provide plenty of motivation for any young journalist who might be tempted to cut corners or embellish a story.

This is why this poll result is so startling and disturbing. The fact that nearly half of those polled think that “major news organizations fabricate news stories about President Trump  and his administration” is shocking. It reveals a deep distrust of “the press” by a significant portion of the population. Consider for a moment the fact that trust is the only thing of value for members of the press. It doesn’t matter how much information you have or how good it is, if half of your potential audience thinks that you sometimes make things up you’re wasting your time. It’s like asking people if they believe that employees at major fast food chains spit on your food before serving it. If half the people think that they do, chances are they’re not eating fast food. (My apologies to the squeamish.)

This poll, and another from Marist College, led a commentator at the Washington Post to declare that Trump has won his war against the media. While it may be too soon to make that claim, it certainly is not too soon to sound the alarm.

The poll was conducted October 12-16, surveying 1,991 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.

More details on the poll and its methodology can be found in these two documents — Toplines: | Crosstabs:

*According to a study by Harvard University, reported in the Chicago Tribune, some of the loss of credibility by the news media may be a direct result of biased coverage of the first 100 days in office for the Trump administration.

2 Replies to “Trust and Credibility Issues Growing for Journalists”

  1. Pod Cast Citation :
    Garfield, Bob.”Too Much of a Bad Thing.” WNYC Studios, published by On The Media, June 1, 2017.

    Book Citation: Campbell, Richard. ” Bias In News.” Media and Culture, Mass Communication in a Digital Age. Published by Bedford/St. Martin’s, 11th ed., Ch.14, pp.455-456. Accessed 2015/ 2016.

    1. I get my main source of news from the ABC World News App on my phone and also some Facebook News links. The news I typically follow has to do with either World disasters and foreign policy, or U.S. Political News. In more recent years I have become more aware of bias and scandal within the media realm, especially concerning Politics. As I have gotten older, I am learning that some news Networks are paid to report certain topics, and stories. For instance, MSNBC is known to be Democratic, while FOX News is accredited for being hard lining Republican coverage. I trust ABC News a little more because it is not just Reporting on American News, they give a more general coverage of Global News. Reading and listening to the Blog Post about fake news has really made me consider the content that I believe and see. The Blog and Articles both included the idea that News is easy for anyone to create based on things like commercial sites to get people to click ads. Secondly, knowing to check dates of the photos, and website also gives me a better insight on if the News is in fact real or if the advertisement is at work, especially because the News comes from Media now a days. I intend to look for more credible sources of News such as switching to local websites that offer news, such as the Pueblo Chieftain, or even local News Channels. I can also look at multiple news sources to determine the amount of news coverage on a story I may find to be important or urgent. My advice for other people who are heavily dependent on Social Media News as a source of information, is to do a little research on the history of the sources they use, and to do a little digging themselves when a story does break. I find that personal investigation on multiple news sources allows me to sort out an idea of the truth and what all the parties involved are saying for a Story. The problem of fake news is only resurfacing but I think people can combat the issue of Media Ethics by being more picky on the sources they get their information from, and provide themselves with a variety of perspectives to draw their own conclusions.

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