August 10, 2007

Choosy News Consumers Mistrust Media

Pew Research has released its latest poll on media credibility, and newsrooms should take notice of the results. The industry has its lowest marks from its most sophisticated customers, but at least they have better credibility than Congress and the President. No, really:

The American public continues to fault news organizations for a number of perceived failures, with solid majorities criticizing them for political bias, inaccuracy and failing to acknowledge mistakes. But some of the harshest indictments of the press now come from the growing segment that relies on the internet as its main source for national and international news.

The internet news audience – roughly a quarter of all Americans – tends to be younger and better educated than the public as a whole. People who rely on the internet as their main news source express relatively unfavorable opinions of mainstream news sources and are among the most critical of press performance. As many as 38% of those who rely mostly on the internet for news say they have an unfavorable opinion of cable news networks such as CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, compared with 25% of the public overall, and just 17% of television news viewers.

The internet news audience is particularly likely to criticize news organizations for their lack of empathy, their failure to "stand up for America," and political bias. Roughly two-thirds (68%) of those who get most of their news from the internet say that news organizations do not care about the people they report on, and 53% believe that news organizations are too critical of America. By comparison, smaller percentages of the general public fault the press for not caring about people they report on (53%), and being too critical of America (43%).

Let's turn those numbers around for comparison. Even among Internet-savvy news consumers, all media segments get approval numbers for which politicians would kill, or at least heavily earmark. None of the market segments falls below 60% favorable ratings with Internet users. Local TV news gets a 68% favorable rating, and the local paper gets 71%. That doesn't sound bad at all.

However, the trend lines look less rosy for the media. Since Pew began conducting these polls in 1985, those favorability ratings have dropped for all segments (overall), but primarily for cable-TV news and major national newspapers. The decline has a definite partisan trend as well. While all three categories (Democrat, independent, and Republican) lost confidence in market segments over that period of time, the gaps between them became more pronounced. Over the 22 years of this polling effort, the favorability gap between Democrats and Republicans increased from 4 to 28 points for network news, and from 6 to 38 points for national newspapers. Independents stayed almost exactly between the two.

Trends on accuracy and bias look equally disturbing. Republicans and independents who believe that the press is politically biased both increased significantly over 22 years (21 and 17 points respectively) and now represent majorities of both, while Democrats declined by 4 points. The same is true with perceived inaccuracy, with Republicans and independents increasing to majorities (26 and 21 points) and even Democrats increasing by 11 points to 43%.

So what does this tell us? The media still has enough goodwill among all groups to start making some changes to keep that goodwill from eroding any further. It also needs to act fast to do so. While Democrats mostly believe the press to be fair and accurate, two-thirds of the rest of the country increasingly believe them to be biased, inaccurate, and damaging democracy. That tension will eventually bring those favorability numbers to a point where advertisers will find other places to go.


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Comments (12)

Posted by NoDonkey | August 10, 2007 7:47 AM

When I am subjected to cable news against my will (usually at airports), I get the same sick feeling I get on rare moments I'm forced to watch a few minutes of some inane sitcom.

They're both a profane insult to my intelligence.

Newspapers? They would be fine if available without the front section (with the exception of the WSJ). Nothing on the Internet replaces a portable sports page. Other than that, why do I want to read yesterday's stale news?

The media elites are clearly lost at sea. What idiot would pay Katy Couric $15 million to read news to comatose nursing home residents? Did they really and truly think CBS would increase their audience by hiring this aging diva? Are they huffing paint?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post shameless campaigning for the appalling Jim Webb last fall, destroyed the last remaining shred of credibility that rag enjoyed.

The Sixth Sense was a movie about a child who saw people who didn't know that they were dead. He should have been placed on the set of ABC News, then he really have said, "I see dead people" and have everyone believe him.

Posted by Lightwave | August 10, 2007 9:12 AM

It's interesting to note that despite the long and loud calls from the moonbat bloggers that the media is biased against the Left, in reality America believes the opposite.

The anti-GOP anti-America bias coupled with the availability of information on the net are the main reasons why the MSM is dying...and even the Democrats believe the news is "fair and balanced" at worst.

Yet more proof the moonbat fringe is just that.

Posted by docjim505 | August 10, 2007 9:28 AM

Cap'n Ed wrote:

While Democrats mostly believe the press to be fair and accurate, two-thirds of the rest of the country increasingly believe them to be biased, inaccurate, and damaging democracy. That tension will eventually bring those favorability numbers to a point where advertisers will find other places to go.

1. Further evidence that democrats are dain bramaged.

2. Since they have an obsession with polls, does this mean that they'll suddenly start believing that the MSM is biased? After all, a sizable majority of Americans think so, and a sizable majority of Americans CAN'T be wrong.

Posted by Dust Bunny Queen | August 10, 2007 9:42 AM

While Democrats mostly believe the press to be fair and accurate, two-thirds of the rest of the country increasingly believe them to be biased, inaccurate, and damaging democracy. That tension will eventually bring those favorability numbers to a point where advertisers will find other places to go.

Well, of course the Dems believe the press to be fair and accurate. The press is singing their song and carrying the freight for the Democrats.

Posted by David M | August 10, 2007 9:49 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/10/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by Jazz | August 10, 2007 10:05 AM

Hoo, boy. One of my favorite, antagonizing subjects. Grab a drink and sit back, for a diatribe is coming.

First - the "MSM" which so many of us demonize isn't going anywhere. And if they did, the blogosphere would dry up and blow away virtually overnight. Everyone reads and watches them and everyone quotes them. I've even seen you, Ed, link to and quote the New York Times without scoffing at the story on occasion. Without the AP, Reuters, etc. there simply would be no grist for the mill. Bloggers can't generate the global news sources needed for this type of endeavor.

Second: Media reports bad news. That's just the facts. Not just "bad" but scandalous, juicy and titilating. That's what moves copy and draws web hits. People have gotten used to seven years of coverage of primarly the Bush years in the White House since the real ascendence of blogging. What do they report? Bad news about Bush. There is no coverage of bad things about a Democratic president because there isn't one to comment on. Congress was in Republican control until only the last short period, so they drew bad press too. This leads to greater endorsement of of the MSM by Democratic supporters and charges of unfair coverage by GOP supporters.

We tend to forget that for the last four years of the Clinton administration, the MSM would have had you believe that there was absolutely nothing woth reporting except Whitewater, Monica, and whether or not Bill had raped and murdered various women and where Hillary was burying the corpses of their political opponents.

Should the 2008 elections result in the election of a president Obama, or Edwards, or (God help us all) Hillary, allow me to predict that there will be a shift in the political blogging magnetic poles. In no time at all there will be cases of poor judgement, incompetence, scandal or malfeasance. And then the MSM will be having a field day with it 24/7. And, (quote me on this and hold me to it) you'll see the Starboard leaning blogs happily quoting story after story from the NY Times, WaPo, et. al talking about the horrid shortcomings of the administration and the Port side blogs will be crying foul about how awful and unfair the MSM is and the Vast Right Wing conspiracy will be back in full force. No matter what this hypothetical Dem president does in Iraq - be it continue the battle, begin to redeploy or flat out pull out precipitously - disaster will inevitably follow, just as it does today. And the MSM will be all over it and the GOP supporting blogs will be there, quoting the MSM and nodding in agreement about what a horrible job they are doing.

Is the MSM doing any sort of fantastic, solid job beyond criticism? Obviously not. Far from it. But they are the only game in town and they don't hate the GOP. They just love dirt. And right now the GOP is in the position to serve up the most red meat to them.

Two years from today we'll be well into the next president's term. If it's Rudy or Fred, etc. there will be no way to test my theory. If it's somebody with a "D" after their name, please be sure to check in with me and let me know how you think it's playing out.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | August 10, 2007 11:49 AM

RE: Jazz (August 10, 2007 10:05 AM)

"...But they are the only game in town and they don't hate the GOP. They just love dirt. And right now the GOP is in the position to serve up the most red meat to them."

While much of what you say is true, this one isn't. The MSM may love dirt but it is the GOP's that they dig most and this is no temporary excavation. Polls have consistently shown that members of the MSM vote (and contribute campaign monies) for a Liberal/Democrat at about a 70-85% clip. It's illogical to conclude that it, as a collective, would give political power and money to one side of the spectrum so reliably and would, nevertheless, split their critical reportage fairly in a target rich environment. It's against human nature and we know such integrity is lacking. An occasional rebuke of their own party does not balance the ledger of inequity that is clearly anti-"conservative" (i.e. GOP, Republican, neo-con, religious right...). It is the new media that will assuredly widen the gap of mistrust between news consumers and the old vanguard. Aging, yet continued institutional bias has been just that profound.

Posted by burt | August 10, 2007 4:52 PM

I am surprised that only 38% of Internet news users have an unfavorable opinion of cable news. I don't know anyone who doesn't dislike at least one of the three channels.

I fault the news organizations for having too much empathy. That is a major source of editorializing rather than news. One can almost always find a tear jerker story to support one's bias.

The Washington Times has limited news resources and uses a lot of biased AP. That said it is worth reading for the exceptional commentary section.

Jazz, as far as the MSM was concerned neither FDR nor JFK could conceivably do anything wrong.

Posted by jaeger51 | August 10, 2007 9:05 PM

Jazz, if you don't see the MSM pro-Dem bias you aren't paying attention. It's not even what they write, it's what they cover, and how they feature the coverage. Bush's 20 year old college going daughter tries to buy a drink in a bar and it's front page news for days and days. Gore's son with a druggie track record is arrested for DUI with a pharmacy in the car and it's on the third page, once. Jefferson is indicted for taking huge bribes, it's a one day story. Bush fires US attorneys, which he has a perfect right to do, and it's news in many different angles for weeks and weeks. The quicker the MSM sinks themselves by holding to their stupid opinions and driving away the public, the better. Hopefully the money behind them will wake up and see their losses and hire some actual journalists rather than liberal propagandists.

Posted by ck | August 11, 2007 1:36 AM

Capt. said Democrats believe the press to be fair and accurate? Aside from taking Fox's trademark slogan, that doesn't seem right. Ever seen media matters? Remember the anger of capitulation of the press in the leadup to the Iraq war?

Posted by Jazz | August 11, 2007 4:57 AM

Re: burt at August 10, 2007 4:52 PM

You are correct about FDR and JFK, but you leave out the rest of the presidents of that era. It was far from only those two. Stright up through Nixon this was true. And even then, if you read the biographies of those involved, a few individuals had to pretty much go to war with the newspaper to allow Woodward and Bernstein to even touch the Watergate story. It just wasn't done. Everyone got a free pass. That was also long ago and in a different time.

Re: jaeger51 at August 10, 2007 9:05 PM

You and I must watch different news sources. Gore's son was all over CNN Headline News for literally days on end. It was the top story. In their online site it was also front page news for a good bit of time. (Though it shouldn't have been. Nor any stories about politician's children who aren't invovled in campaigns.)

Many of the comments here truly do reinforce my opinion that your perception must be very heavily shaped by where you choose to get your news and commentary.

Posted by docjim505 | August 11, 2007 6:37 AM

Apropos this post, Reuters has been caught with their pants down again. This time, when covering the story about a Russian sub laying claim to the Artic, they used (wait for it...)



The UK Guardian reports:

News agency Reuters has been forced to admit that footage it released last week purportedly showing Russian submersibles on the seabed of the North Pole actually came from the movie Titanic. (1)

(hat tip: SondraK (2))

And, according to commenter stoo on this post, Reuters reported a massacre in Iraq a week or so ago... but the US Army apparently can't find any evidence that it ever happened.

According to an Aug. 8th letter from Major Rob Parke of the U.S.Army that was sent to Bob Owens of the confederateyankee blog, the Army has not been able to find a single ounce of proof that this story is true.


This story is false. We have had coalition soldiers looking for the last two days at the locations that IPs reported these bodies. We've asked all the locals in the area and they have no idea what we are talking about. We've gone to areas that might be close, gone to suspicious locations, all turned up nothing.

Most of the news stories all say the report stated decomposing bodies which would indicate if it was true, it happened before we arrived. Considering we discovered an Al Qaeda Jail, courthouse, and torture house in western Baqubah, it wouldn't surprise me if there were 60 bodies buried out there somewhere. Bottom line is we have done some extensive looking and found nothing. (3)

Fake but accurate again?





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