The distrust of the media becomes total. That’s hardly news to anyone, except to the clueless editors and publishers of the big newspapers and the big mules of the television networks, who see their audiences shrinking and wonder why.
A new survey by Gallup asked Americans how much trust and confidence they have in the mass media — newspapers, television and radio — when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly: a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all. The result shows that “trust” disappeared long ago. Trust becomes disgust.
Gallup has been taking this measurement over the past decade or so, and the erosion of trust has been consistent and steady since at least 1998. Twelve years ago, 53 percent of Americans told Gallup that they had “a great deal” or at least “a fair amount” of trust in the media. By this year, only 40 percent of Americans put their trust in newspapers, television and radio to tell them what’s going on in the world. A remarkable 60 percent said they had “not very much” trust or “none at all.”
This should frighten editors and publishers, but it won’t. With few exceptions, they’re locked in to their high-minded prejudices and the noble conceit that the role of the media is not to report the news but to tell readers, viewers and listeners what to think about the news. This trend is vividly illustrated by the coverage of the presidential campaign this year. This latest survey was taken in the second week of September, so it’s hot off the press.