Trust in news media has dropped significantly in the past several decades.
More and more Americans consider news media to be biased, and it’s made it difficult to create a well-informed public. Repairing this divide will require upcoming and currently active journalists to be extremely accurate with information so as not to worsen the distrust that already exists.
It also requires individuals to recognize their own bias and cross-reference information with multiple news sources to provide a more objective world view.
This distrust has been propagated by President Donald Trump throughout his campaign and presidency as he has accused the media of being politically biased.
In 2016, Trump tweeted about how the media was “crooked.” He also coined the term “fake news” and called reporters “the enemy of the people.”
Although these attacks were initiated about two years ago, the effects have had a ripple effect. People’s trust in media was already at a record low in 2014.
According to Gallup News, only 22 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in newspapers in 2014.
This proportion dropped to 19 and 18 percent for news on the internet and television news, respectively.
Recent events like the election can’t have helped those numbers. According to a 2018 report by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy, 73 percent of Americans said the spread of inaccurate
information on the internet, or “fake news,” is a major problem with news coverage today.
However, according to the report, definitions of “fake news” were also distorted. Forty percent of Republicans said accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group negatively should “always” be considered fake news.
If news is accurate, even if it’s unfavorable, it should never be considered fake.
In order to navigate this “war on news,” let’s consider each issue on its own and figure out how to resolve it.
The first is the spread of inaccurate information on the internet. Because anyone can log on to his computer, write an article and publish it on the internet, one has to be cautious of any source of information from the web.
Therefore, when determining if an internet story is accurate, one needs to cross-reference with a variety of sources so as to get the most objective view of the article.
This is important because every news site is going to contain bias to some extent, just like how every reader has bias to some extent.
And, of course, some sources have more bias than others. It’s imperative that readers cross-reference as best as possible.
This might mean allowing news from the opposing side of what one believes to enter his news stream. But that’s only part of the issue. The reader also has to recognize that he is biased in some way too.
Being aware of this is the first step to overcoming it.
Ultimately, the consequence of this distrust is that all legitimate forms of news media need to be extra cautious about getting information correct.
This means fact checking and reporting accurate information, as well as admitting when something’s wrong. For example, last week, a multitude of news outlets owned by Sinclair, an oil company, were revealed to offer the same message.
The newscasters were all reading from the same script. Even after Sinclair’s media bias was brought into the open last week, Sinclair has still failed to apologize for it.
Producing informed citizens is a two-way street. And just like in any relationship, it requires trust. News sites have to trust the reader to absorb the information and the reader needs to trust the media to provide accurate information.
When citizens refuse to acknowledge news with information that conflicts with their opinion, that only widens the divide.
And when media provide clearly biased information and refuses to recognize their mistake, that only justifies media distrust.