An Associated Press story the other day reported on a pair of surveys which showed most journalists want the same thing the public desires from them--factual news stories reported with context and minus the spin and thinly veiled political agendas.
That sounds good, but that objective-while-assertive approach the way I learned it from late UCA Professor Gerald Dean Duncan has become old school. Instead, it's become popular in the craft to pepper much news of the day with obvious opinion and political favoritism.
So what's keeping them from performing their craft the professional way?
I've suspected one reason has to do with the report that 90 percent of media in the U.S. even six years ago was controlled by six corporations that are in no way called to this craft. These corporations obviously feel no connection to preserving the ethics and integrity of their constitutionally protected journalistic mission.
Citing collaborative surveys by a branch of the AP and the American Press Institute and released by the Media Insight Project, the AP says the results cast light on the feelings of both readers and media members about their reporting performance.
The views expressed by 42 percent of the respondents included feelings that journalists today stray too far into commentary, enough so that some once avid subscribers and, the story said, readers like Anna Retana from Washington state say they've cut back on their news consumption.
"Most people who watch the news or read a newspaper, they're wanting to find out the truth. They don't want to have tons of propaganda to sift through, and that's what we get a lot of," she's quoted as saying.
I believe Anna speaks for millions of Americans who today have learned to spot favoritism and intentional undermining in much media coverage. The political bents and spin have become so prevalent that many also resent the disingenuousness of calling it news rather than "the day's agenda-laden viewpoints."
The report found the majority of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 (i.e., potential customers) believe today's news is fairly inaccurate. And as for the difference between actual news reporting and columns presented on the opinion pages, half the public doesn't even know the meaning of "op-ed" (opposite the editorial page, hence op-ed).
The AP story suggests the president's complaints about his sustained mistreatment in the media are largely responsible for the widespread mistrust. So he just complains too much when the constant reporting about him and his family is biased or just plain wrong?
"The close look at attitudes comes in the midst of President Donald Trump's relentless attacks on the news media and the continued downsizing of the economically beleaguered newspaper industry," the AP reported. "It has left journalists beaten down: The surveys found about three in four journalists believe the public's level of trust in the news media has decreased in the past year."
But then the story adds: "[O]nly 44 percent of American adults actually say their level of trust has decreased." That sweeping statement for me ironically represents exactly what we are talking about: Is it honestly "American adults" who have lost trust in the media's abilities, or only those surveyed? And what percentage of those people follow which political ideology? Who was surveyed and who wasn't?
Thinking adults recognize the clear and constant attacks and demonizations by mainstream media aimed at undermining Trump and his family. None of us saw anything remotely like the relentlessly negative media coverage with the previous administration. Why not? And three-fourths of the journalists surveyed actually wonder why they've lost public trust and credibility.
I call it shooting themselves in both feet by choosing to join the "resist by any means" political movement rather than preserving the impartial journalism America expects and deserves. I'm betting scores of millions of Americans no longer bother reading or watching the stories that begin with yet another predictable smear on our nation's president.
Those who read this newspaper's crystal-clear statement of Core Values by publisher Walter Hussman Jr., appearing daily on page 2, will understand the proper role of any credible news organization is to impartially inform readers with facts in the fairest possible manner--the way professional journalism was intended.
"When a newspaper delivers both news and opinions, the impartiality and credibility of the news organization can be questioned," Hussman writes. "To minimize this as much as possible there needs to be a sharp and clear distinction between news and opinion, both to those providing and consuming the news."
The role of news media is never to use their potentially devastating power and influence to continually demean or demonize anyone in the news for personal or political purposes.
Hussman is clear on what journalists need: "Credibility is the greatest asset of any news medium and impartiality is the greatest source of credibility."
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at email@example.com.
Editorial on 06/17/2018
Print Headline: Lost faith, trust