Opinions about the Press

Opinions about the Press

Since 1985, the Pew Research Center has tracked the public opinion about the national news media. Its most recent data is quite alarming: Opinions now equal or surpass all-time highs on nine of 12 core measures. A bright spot: As bad as it is for news organizations, they are still more trusted than other many other organizations including the government and business. So I gotta ask: Are news organizations that bad, or do we just hate what the news is reporting? You can find a summary of the recent report here. the New York Times recently reported on the Pew report as well.

Some interesting paragraphs from the report summary:

* “The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has been tracking views of press performance since 1985, and the overall ratings remain quite negative. Fully 66% say news stories often are inaccurate, 77% think that news organizations tend to favor one side, and 80% say news organizations are often influenced by powerful people and organizations.

The widely-shared belief that news stories are inaccurate cuts to the press’s core mission: Just 25% say that in general news organizations get the facts straight while 66% say stories are often inaccurate. As recently as four years ago, 39% said news organizations mostly get the facts straight and 53% said stories are often inaccurate.”

* “Despite the growth of Internet news, it is clear that television news outlets, specifically cable news outlets, are central to people’s impressions of the news media. When asked what first comes to mind when they think of news organizations, 63% volunteer the name of a cable news outlet, with CNN and Fox News by far the most prevalent in people’s minds. Only about a third (36%) name one of the broadcast networks. Fewer than one-in-five mention local news outlets and only 5% mention a national newspaper such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or USA Today. Just 3% name a website – either web-only or linked to a traditional news organization – when asked what comes to mind when they think of news organizations.”

* “For the first time in a Pew Research Center survey, as many say that news organizations hurt democracy (42%) as protect democracy (42%). In the mid-1980s, about twice as many said that news organizations protect democracy rather than hurt democracy.

“Yet majorities have consistently expressed the view that criticism of political leaders by news organizations keeps them from doing things that should not be done. Today, 58% say this, while just 25% say that the news media’s criticism keeps political leaders from doing their jobs. Even as attitudes toward the press have grown more negative, support for the press’s watchdog role has remained stable.”

Download the full report, Views of the News Media: 1985-2011: Press Widely Criticized, But Trusted More than Other Information Sources.