Friday, August 10, 2007

The Souring of America

Solid majorities of the public criticize them for “political bias, inaccuracy and failing to acknowledge mistakes” with the “harshest indictments...from the growing segment that relies on the internet as its main source for national and international news.”

That’s the conclusion of the Pew Research Center, not about the Bush Administration but the nation’s news organizations. Americans are losing faith not only in the politicians who govern them but the people who report what they are doing.

In the last century we believed truth would be found, as Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand put it, in “a multitude of tongues.” Now that so many voices can be heard, the result is not “truth” but distrust.

George W. Bush and Rupert Murdoch share much of the blame, with those who rely on Fox News as their main source of information leading the way in damning the media, with 63 percent saying news stories are often inaccurate as opposed to less than half of those who cite CNN or network news as their main source.

At the other end of the political spectrum, the report says, “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.”

In the past five years, this bipartisan divide between press and public has grown much worse, and it reflects a larger loss in American life.

In another Pew poll in 2002, 74 percent felt that "As Americans, we can always find a way to solve our problems and get what we want." Five years later, the number is 58 percent. Other polls show erosion of public confidence in the government's ability to respond to terrorist attacks, natural disasters and health crises over that period.

In all the gabble to come over today’s evidence about growing distrust of the mainstream media, it might help to remember that it may also reflect a loss of faith in ourselves.

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