The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press put out the results of their latest poll on public opinion of the media. And the results weren’t too good. But, on the other hand, they weren’t all bad. Here’s how Pew put it:
Negative opinions about the performance of news organizations now equal or surpass all-time highs on nine of 12 core measures the Pew Research Center has been tracking since 1985. However, these bleak findings are put into some perspective by the fact that news organizations are more trusted sources of information than are many other institutions, including government and business.
Further, people rate the performance of the news organizations they rely on much more positively than they rate the performance of news organizations generally.
But the results themselves were kind of hard to read, for those of us that defend the American model of journalism. Fully two-thirds of respondents say news stories often are inaccurate, 77 percent say news organizations tend to favor one side, and 80 percent say news organizations are often influenced by powerful people and organizations.
One of the things I find interesting about this study is the relative lack of media interest in it. Certainly those blogs that cover the media — such as Mediabistro — covered it. But I’ve noticed that some in the media don’t take as kindly to stories alleging problems in the media as they do stories alleging problems in the military or business world or, for that matter, in the religious sectors.
One noticeable exception was Politico, which ran with the story. Here’s how they put it:
Record numbers of Americans consider the news media to be “immoral,” “inaccurate,” and “biased,” a new poll says.
A plurality of Americans, 42 percent, said that the press was “immoral,” compared with 38 percent who viewed the news media as “moral” — a record high according to an annual Pew Research poll on the media.
Americans were evenly divided over whether the media helps “protect democracy” or “hurts democracy,” with 42 percent for each. The number of people who thought the media hurts democracy was at another record high — in the mid-1980s, about twice as many said that news organizations protect democracy.
Americans also believe that news stories are often inaccurate — with 66 percent giving such a response, compared with 34 percent in 1985. Only 25 percent of those surveyed think news organizations “get the facts straight.”
Now, Pew emphasized that Americans have negative views of all sources of information. But still, these numbers aren’t great, are they?
Over at the Washington Post, media critic Erik Wemple dismissed the Pew report as no big deal. Since people tend to trust the media outlets they use over the ones they don’t, he figured it just showed that news consumers were savvy.
What do you think? Do these numbers trouble you or are they no big deal? If people are happy with their news sources — CNN and Fox News being the top television outlets people go to — does it matter if they have negative views of other outlets?