The Waning Trust in the Press — UPDATED

A while back, I asked my very frustrated mother-in-law why she voted for Barack Obama, and she shrugged, “I could only go by what I heard.”

She meant the nightly network news shows, which she and Pop watch or listen to while they bustle around the kitchen.

It didn’t matter that a sister-in-law and I had both warned her that Obama was inexperienced or that she might not like his policies. We were not the press. We were not the people who write headlines and speak with solemn surety before microphones; we were not invested with the authority of an established public trust.

Information worth listening to was the provenance of the press. For her generation, the press was meant to be listened to and trusted.

But not so much, anymore

At a large, multi-generational family gathering this past weekend, inevitable discussions arose about the economy, jobs, and the bleak outlook for the immediate future. The general consensus was that our president is a failure, the congress is a wreck, and there is no authenticity or originality in our leadership, nor in our press. A majority in attendance—both Democrats and Republicans—had voted for Barack Obama (a few grudgingly, as they had supported Clinton) but while everyone expressed disappointment (there was not a single voice raised in support of the president) the senior citizens confided a deep sense of betrayal—of their trust being shattered. When I asked one of them, a former “Reagan Democrat” who had voted for Dole, then Bush, then Kerry why she had pulled the lever for Obama, she threw up her hands helplessly, “all I knew was what I heard! That other guy seemed too hot-headed and that Sarah Palin; she just wanted to play dress-up!”

And that was the general response from that side of the room: “I paid attention; I read all the papers—they all loved this guy!”

“He was new! We needed change!”

But not, as it turns out, the kind of change we are currently experiencing. Asked if they regretted their vote, to a one they said “yes.” Most of them said they wished, in retrospect, that they had voted for Hillary Clinton who “at least understood that the economy…it’s the economy, right? Stupid?

Anecdotally, it seems the seniors are done believing the press, or beings scared by the headlines. They’re looking at the tomorrows of their children and grandchildren, and they’re shaken. Read the whole thing.

I do wonder, though, if the seniors don’t see anyone they like — if no one jumps out of the pack from the GOP — will the seniors simply revert to relying on the press? I suppose it’s a possibility. But it’s no longer a sure thing, I don’t think.

Because, ultimately, the seniors are not saps

Victor Davis Hanson: The Obama Catharsis

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Holly Rutchik

    This is soooo true! Last week I spent the week at the home of my 81 year old grandmother. As we watched the news she shook her head and made mention that the reported seemed smug. I shared with her that as a writer myself, it makes me ill how we get the news through the “filter” and eyes of the press (which is all liberal – but grandma doesn’t really know what that word means:)
    Grandma said what only a grandparent could, “Well, that wasn’t allowed in my day. A reporter was a reporter – we didn’t know what THEY thought, and that’s how it “outta” be.”
    AMEN, grandma.
    Great post!

  • Manny

    We may have had more confidence in the press years ago, but we really should have been just as skeptical then as we are now. While Cronkite wasn’t apparently biased at the time, in retrospect he was biased and he did slant his stories. He may not have been the primary cause of the disatisfaction with the Vietnam War, but he certainly pushed opinion in that direction. And as we now know he was a left winger, hardly independent.

  • CV

    This describes my parents (age 79) also. They follow the “news” avidly and consider themselves well-informed. My impression is that they watch MSNBC(!) a lot. They’ve spoken admirably of Chris Matthews.

    I come from a long line of working class, Irish Dems and my parents just don’t grasp the fact that “their party” has morphed into something completely different than what they knew and supported during the JFK era.

    Although I’ve tried to encourage them to branch out a bit (Fox or WSJ on occasion, perhaps?) they’re not interested and they’re certainly NOT tapped into the blogs/online world in terms of news gathering.

    As for me, I have a journalism background and I tended to give the MSM the benefit of the doubt until I witnessed the lapdog adoration of Obama in concert with the rabid reaction to Sarah Palin when she burst onto the scene in 2008.

    Then the extent of the rot and abdication of journalistic standards all became VERY clear to me.

    I think “the press” bears quite a bit of responsibility for the fix we now find ourselves in.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    CV, I know whereof you speak!

    My family was Irish, working class Democrats too, but the party they believed in, and voted for, has completely vanished.

    Among other things, if they were alive today, they’d be considered pariahs by their fellow Democrats today, because of their devout Catholicism, and because they were anti-abortion. The party really has changed over the decades.

  • Doc

    Those seniors are what the corporate media want everyone to be. Ignorant, naive, and unaware. This is why the Media/Entertainment/Academic/Government complex hates and wants to destroy Fox News, talk radio, and internet bloggers. Competition makes ‘em look bad. Re-education is needed. As Instapundit says, they’re all Stalinists at heart.

    And the corporate media have been Leftist propagandists for generations. See Walter Duranty’s cover-up of Stalin’s Ukranian genocide and the NYT’s presentation of Castro as a liberal reformer.

  • Billiamo

    Not to nitpick, Elizabeth, but it’s Victor Davis Hanson.

    [Thanks for the heads up -- was working too fast --admin]

  • Victor

    Boy Anchoress, does he ever look like the Walter I, me and myself use to know.

    I hear ya! All kidding aside what do you think of him Victor?

    Hey! Living in Cana.., I mean Canada Anchoress, we smart Canadians like to stay out of American Poli tics, I mean politic and besides here in Canada, some of my friends still love him and one almost took my head off at a family picnic after I told her what you thought of him and long story short, she replied in so many words, who is this Anchor of yours anyway?

    OK! Hey! seeing that you got me started and that one of our grand daughter cell who goes by the name of Trinity gave me his picture and he’s NOW in my little chapel, I’ll simply say that he’s LUC, I mean luc warm and leave “IT” at that.

    God Bless America


  • TX Elizabeth

    My husband’s parents are in their 70s. I have been trying to convince them for years that the media is no longer trustworthy. I even bought Spin Sisters for my mother-in-law when it came out. To no avail…
    As far as they are concerned, if it isn’t said on NBC, then it must not be important. And yet, they are completely unhappy with the current presdient.
    I want to tear my hair out some days.

  • Clinton

    It’s not just in politics that the mainstream press seems to
    have shrugged off any pretense to journalistic integrity.
    Coverage of the Church by the major media has become a
    predictable hash of willful ignorance and malice.

  • tnxplant

    My experience has been different – my parents (Mom is 81 and Dad died in February at age 85) certainly weren’t taken in by the press/media. They stopped their newspaper subscription years ago. Back in the 1970s Dad told me always to remember that whatever I saw on TV news or in the papers was through the lens of the person presenting it and was not the whole truth.

    We used to watch Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley et al and then have a family conversation, asking questions and searching for more information.

    Today I know young people in their 20s and 30s who are completely taken in by the Today Show and its ilk.

    OTOH, my inlaws (in their 90s) are yellow dog Democrats until their dying days.

  • Teresa

    I haven’t watched the network news nor the Sunday talkfests for at least 10 years. My mother (91 years old) does watch the news; however, she has never voted in her life. As she said “they are all the same.” So at least I can say she’s not brainwashed by the network folks. It is starteling how the news media has an effect on some. I think that is fading, but I’m not sure.

  • dumb ox disciple

    Ronald Knox wrote in 1932 of “broadcastmindedness”, which is the habit of taking over from self-constituted mentors, a ready-made, standardized philosophy of life, instead of constructing, with however imperfect materials, a philosophy of life for oneself.” Knox was appalled at people believing whatever they heard over the radio.

  • Kurt

    My mother is 82, but she hasn’t watched the mainstream press in years. She gets her information from Fox News, talk radio, and various articles and blog posts that some friends and relatives (including me) send her. Needless to say, she didn’t vote for Obama, nor did her closest friends (also in their 70s through early 80s). In 2009, she went to her first Tea Party rallies in Washington, DC. I asked her at the time if she ever imagined she would be going to political rallies at age 80 and she said never in her life. She lives in a generally reliable “red state” that went for Obama in 2008, and worries that it will happen again in 2012. Although her closest friends are conservative, she meets many seniors at gatherings and events for seniors who seem reflexively liberal and are still willing to believe whatever the left-leaning paper in her area reports. (Like tnxplant, my mother cancelled her subscription to that paper years ago, and only takes the somewhat conservative paper in the area, instead.)

  • Greta

    There were certain things that the founders knew would be essential to having a democracy work. If one reads the first amendment, it shows what they believed essential and in the right order.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    1st was complete freedom of religion from government actions which would impede it in any way. In other words, they did not want a church of england or a Catholic Church made mandatory and the most certainly did not want a government that tried to make aethism the religion of the land. Without strong religious beliefs by the people and free religious protection from government, most of the founders did not believe our country would survive.

    We had to have the right of free speech, even if someone did not like what was being said. They would have cringed at politically correct speech or laws punish someone for what they say. I can imagine the reaction to hate speech legislation.

    And of course they gave the press protection from government and with it the obligation to report the news without fear and with a love of country that could bestow such freedom.

    They gave us the right to assemble peaceably which is being attacked by many in this country today. Those who mock those assmblies or try to intimidate them to silence as we see with those attacking the tea party and for those groups to petition the government to stop things like ObamaCare are fundamental to our democracy.

    So when the press decides who is supposed to win and slant the new even to the point of lying as with Dan Rather and his cronies at CBS news on the eve of an election with the lie about Bush, or when they refuse to report the news when it hits their chosen candidate, they are throwing crap on our constitution and our rights. If they want protection, then they should go in without bias and report what they see and nothing more.

  • Todd

    Count me a skeptic on both the mass media and the meme they’re all liberals.

    The modern print and tv press, including Fox, is designed to sell product. Talking heads are fashioned after celebrities. It’s one of the side effects of capitalism run amok.

    Speaking as a liberal, I haven’t trusted mass media since the 80′s. Glad to see some conservatives, despite Fox, are waking up and drinking the coffee. Welcome to the party. But please, don’t tell me Katie Couric is a liberal. She’s a good-looking saleswoman. That’s all.

  • fiestamom

    I want to believe that people are wising up to the media, but I just don’t know. We have a family friend who’s Catholic, she’s pretty strong on the “social justice” side of Catholicism, she goes to Daily Mass, is involved in small town civic duty, blah blah. Yet the only news she watches is MSNBC. She absolutely does not believe that MSNBC is liberal. She lives in Arizona, and one time she started talking about how immigration isn’t a problem. My brother works for the DOJ on the border in Texas and told her real stories about how bad the drug war is, immigration problems, etc. She was absolutely stunned, and she said she couldn’t believe any of it was true, “b/c she hadn’t seen it on the news.” Clearly, the democrats and the media still think they can sway people with their biased polls, selective coverage on Obama etc.

  • J

    If your relatives are seriously considering hillary clinton as their candidate, once again, they have not done a good job in researching her. And if she is elected our country will continue to suffer.
    I listened to obama’s 2004 convention speech, not impressed. Made a point to read one of his books, truly alarming and definitely not potus material. Complete contempt for our Constitution. And the books are readily available at the library…..not a hard thing to do in order to know the man in his own words. And God bless the internet, you can actually research his voting records while a state and federal legislator, you can see his extensive (2-3 years?)work as a community activist…..and the community suffered because of it. It did not take a lot of effort to research the candidate that would lead what WAS the greatest nation in the world. With the help of voters who did not make an effort, they have aided obama in changing this country…..for the worse. And the dems have stolen a golden moment in our country where they could have placed a truly great black man/woman in the whitehouse and made history. A pox on their party.

  • Doc

    Todd, just curious, what news sources do you trust? I’m with you on the corporate media being untrustworthy, but they are, in fact, liberal.

    Clinton, good line.

    Willful Ignorance and Malice would be the name of the next MSNBC prime time opinion show if the producer got a dose of sodium pentathol.

  • friscoeddie

    ” if no one jumps out of the pack from the GOP —”
    At 79 I’m worried by whatever jumps out of that pack. and something will jump out ,you can bet on that.
    Watching some Catholic people distort themselves trying to vote for Perry or Romney will be like watching pretzels being made. The Main Stream media is reporting a possible innocent man is to be executed tonight, a man whose possible innocence is supported by the Pope and other prominent experts of both parties. Is this one of your examples of media liberal bias?

  • Doc

    Peter Hitchens had a chapter in The Abolition of Britain on what happened to crime in Britain after the British did away with their death penalty. I recommend reading it. The results were not positive for society. Criminals felt more empowered though.

  • LisaB

    No friscoeddie, that man (if he is innocent) is only one of over 3,000 innocents executed today. God willing, those Catholics that voted for the most pro abortion president ever will either vote against Obama or stay home Nov. 2012.

  • Todd Flowerday

    Doc, thanks for the direct query.

    As a Christian with strong leanings to pacifism and social justice, I cannot swallow the notion that mass media are liberal. Rachel Maddow–yes, sure. I think she’s a liberal first and a broadcaster second.

    I find the cheerleading for militarism, for materialism, and for news as entertainment as too distasteful. It was true in the 80′s, and it’s even more the case today. My wife occasionally tunes into network news. I can’t stomach it. Brian Williams is selling cars. He may well be liberal, but he’s first and foremost a shill for the corporation he fronts.

    I want to see serious journalism. I have no problem with the bias of a journalist–I expect a writer to have a point of view. I can enjoy our blog host as a writer and a passionate Christian, but I don’t have to, for example, accept all her opinions.

    So I do listen to NPR, and I do make an effort to read internet sources I trust: Al Jazeera, BBC, and a small raft of conservative (mostly Catholic) outlets. I look for good documentaries. And I read books. I don’t read newspapers any more. I object to the dilution of the daily print media into local sycophants for the coprporate ownership.

    I appreciate that many of you conservatives are fed up with the media. I want to tell y’all: take a number; I’ve been in this line for thirty years.

    [I know I've read msm folk who've admitted that the newsrooms are "mostly liberal." I remember Evan Thomas admit that the msm would give John Kerry "a 10-15% lift", which they likely did, since he was such a dreadful candidate yet did so well. I'm running out of time as I prepare to leave for retreat, but I'm pretty sure you can google around and find admissions from members of the press that they are "mostly liberal" in their perspectives. Not arguing, jut offering an idea -- admin]