Arkansas Press Women

An association of professional communicators

Why we don’t trust the media

What are your thoughts?

http://ethicaloptimist.com

The latest report from Gallup on the public’s level of trust in the media is, to say the least, more trouble for the media.

You want to start with the good news? The media is still more trusted than Congress. There’s always a silver lining somewhere.

But when 57 percent of survey respondents say they trust you “not very much” or “not at all” to offer complete, fair and accurate reporting – you have to believe it’s time for a pretty serious reassessment on the media’s part.

From my side of the pitching desk, I see several factors at work here. Behind the scenes, producers are getting younger than ever, and many of them are surprisingly uneducated. When you consider the crucial role producers play – booking guests, developing content ideas, helping to drive the direction of stories – it’s alarming how little experience many of them have.

On-air hosts and talking heads are increasingly chosen for their ability to get a reaction as opposed to their brains, integrity or understanding of issues. All of this creates a “news” package that viewers recognize more as infotainment than journalism. They may watch it, but do they trust it as accurate or fair? It doesn’t look like it.

I’ve also noticed that when networks choose who to put on the air for analysis or commentary, they tend to keep going back to the same house analysts over and over again, rather than giving new people a shot. Often these folks are more highly valued for their skills at handling interviews, and for being camera-friendly, than they are for actually knowing what they’re talking about.

That’s style over substance.

What’s never changed is that every individual is responsible for keeping himself or herself informed. The question, though, is which sources are considered trustworthy in the effort? There are more sources of information available than ever before and ever since the emergence of the Internet, the legacy media have been warning us not to trust much of the new media – because it isn’t subjected to the same editing and accountability as the traditional media.

Apparently the public isn’t buying that argument much these days. Maybe the media needs to re-examine whether it’s really using all its advantages to deliver a product the public actually finds useful and thought-provoking, as opposed to bombastic and provocative.

 

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This entry was posted on October 13, 2010 by in Free speech and tagged , , , .

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