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Friday, June 17, 2005

Less Trust in Media Than Ever

The recent revelation of the identity of "Deep Throat" reopened examination of the Watergate era... and with it, one of modern journalism's crowning moments. That retrospective (as did coverage of the 30th anniversary of Nixon's resignation last summer) underscored how far the media have fallen since that peak.

A recent Gallup poll found that trust in media -- particularly newspapers and television -- is at an all-time low. The graph below shows a general decline since the early '70s. After a rebound in the '90s, trust has been flat or declining since 2000 at least.

A lot of factors play into this decline of trust. Much of it has to do with our growing cultural cynicism; we just don't trust big institutions of any type anymore. Overheated political rhetoric plays a role as well, as does the sense that news media have abandoned objectivity in favor of agendas. Recent incidents of sloppy reporting (notably CBS and "memogate") and falling for hoaxes have fed into this as well.

To top it all off, the news media are preoccupied with celebrity news and gossip to the point where they drop the ball on news that matters. Anyone who hasn't been living on Mars for the past six months has witnessed the saturation coverage of the Michael Jackson trial whether they wanted to or not. Yet how many are familiar with the Downing St. memo? Of those who are, how many had to actively hunt down information on it?

What can media do to improve its credibility? It's hard to say... and hard to know if they really even want to. Only when the trust issue begins to hurt their bottom line will they take a good, hard look at it.

Source: Pomo Blog