Here, for a change, is a Friday bad-news dump for our country’s news media: Americans don’t believe you anymore. In fact, they’re pretty sure you knowingly publish inaccurate news, distort it and even make stuff up to suit your political bias and agenda.
And if you distribute the news on social media, they believe you even less.
These results from recent public surveys are not just bad news for the news business, struggling through a now-chronic financial crisis. They’re bad news for our form of democracy, which requires informed participation by voters relying on accurate news to cast their ballots. Misinformation can easily result in mistaken choices, or none at all.
Honestly, when consuming the news have you ever thought, even briefly, “What’s the point of objecting, they’re gonna publish what they want anyway?” Not on this site, of course, but elsewhere.
Now, come the Knight Foundation and Gallup Polls dissecting Americans’ thoughts about media. In general, Americans overall estimate that of the news they’re exposed to via radio, TV and print, nearly two-thirds of it is biased (62 percent).
They believe that nearly half the news they see is inaccurate (44 percent). And they’re sure that more than a third of the news moving through those media conduits is misinformation, that is, wrong or fake but distributed as if true.
They also believe that 64 percent of news carried by social media is inaccurate. And — maybe you’ve felt this way too — more than 80 percent of adult Americans report feeling angry or bothered by detecting such false reports. They believe that 65 percent of such news is misinformation and a whopping 80 percent is biased.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of media integrity. To be sure, bias is in the eye or ear of the aggrieved. “You’re biased!” “No, I’m not. You are!”
That’s been a common complaint throughout U.S. history. In the late 1960s, my job description included fielding calls from angry newspaper readers. One woman became so incensed at our coverup of the sudden disappearance of a new U.S. aircraft carrier that her last coherent sentence before disconnecting was, “You, you medias!”
For more than a century of the country’s early history, such suspicion of bias was dead-on accurate as newspapers were mere media arms of political parties or wings. As the nation became better-educated, however, such products became harder to peddle.
Many Americans, especially on the political right, would maintain we’ve returned to that era in a way, thanks to the elite liberal men and women who produce, edit and control much of the nation’s news from the cloistered corridors of the Northeast.
These are the folks who frequent the same schools, bars, restaurants, clubs and rail cars that protected their professional eyes from the Heartland’s festering revolt that produced the historic election upset of 2016 that left lasting scars on so many.
More than 80 percent of respondents reported conscientiously triangulating suspicious reports or details with other news sources, a most impressive number that might just be inflated by the knowledge that such claims are unverifiable.
So, no surprise really that some pretty prominent politicians often employ those suspicions to their own benefit. They need convince no one. They simply preach to the choir.