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June 10, 2005
Confidence Decline Self-Explanatory At E&P

A new Gallup poll shows that public confidence in media outlets have hit an all-time low, a result that should surprise no one after the debacles of Eason's Fables, the CBS-Rather hoax on Bush's National Guard service, and Newsweek's Qu'ran-flushing fumble. Even absent those egregious examples of the media's attempted manipulations of events and facts to further their political agendas, the constant exposure of double standards and hyperbole masquerading as reporting has taught the American public to distrust any single source of news.

One small example of this last problem comes in the reporting of the poll itself in today's on-line Editor & Publisher. Check out the use of language when comparing the declines of strong confidence between the media and the presidency in E&P's reporting (emphases mine):

Those having a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in newspapers dipped from 30% to 28% in one year, the same total for television. The previous low for newspapers was 29% in 1994. Since 2000, confidence in newspapers has declined from 37% to 28%, and TV from 36% to 28%, according to the poll.

However, some other institutions fared far worse this year, suggesting a broad level of distrust, cynicism or malaise.

Confidence in the presidency plunged from 52% to 44%, with Congress and the criminal-justice system also suffering 8% drops. Confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court fell from 46% to 41%. The 22% confidence rating for Congress is its lowest in eight years, and self-identified Republicans have only a slightly more positive view of the institution than do Democrats.

Granted, we are talking about differing time frames. However, calling an eight-point drop for media credibility a "decline" (nine points for newspapers) while the same drop for the presidency is called a "plunge" amounts to the same kind of subtle game-playing that has created the impression of unreliability in the media that the polling reflects.

It's not just the big stories that the media gets wrong that shakes their credibility. It's the small editorial commentary that gets injected into news that also counts. This isn't a particularly egregious example, but it seems rather ironic to see it in a report of declining confidence in media institutions. One would have expected E&P to exercise a bit more care.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 10, 2005 12:39 PM

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» Media In Decline? Whodathunkit! from The Strata-Sphere
Anyone surprised by the news out of Gallup [hat tip: Drudgereport] is just not paying attention. Public trust in newspapers and television news continued to decline in Gallup’s annual survey of “public confidence in major institutions&#... [Read More]

Tracked on June 10, 2005 4:08 PM

» Low Expectations from Mark in Mexico
Pretty sad, really. The most disturbing number that I see is the Supreme Court's confidence rating of only 41%. Time for some changes, I'd say. And notice that Big Business and The Congress tied at 22%. Next year they will be grouped together in a si... [Read More]

Tracked on June 10, 2005 6:25 PM

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