Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Media Mistrust: The Tipping Point

According to the latest Gallup Poll, Americans passed a milestone four years ago and have never looked back: More than half of us now have little or no confidence that mass media--newspapers, TV and radio--report the news fully, fairly and accurately.

Thirty years ago, only 26 percent felt that way. The gap then between Republicans and Democrats was only 10 percent. Today it is a chasm, with twice as many Republicans mistrustful of the news they are getting.

In the wake of Watergate, the public didn’t blame the messengers for delivering political bad news. In the post-9/11 world, they do and accuse them of distorting it.

Behind this change is the difference in the amount of news we get and how we get it. Before 24/7 cable and the Web, newspaper front pages and the evening news on ABC, CBS and NBC packaged our perception of the world and, for better or worse, there were few other sources of information to challenge what they gave us.

Walter Cronkite signed off every night, saying “That’s the way it is,” and most Americans had no way to doubt it.

Today, there are millions of Walter Cronkites on cable and the Web to decide for themselves the way it is and, although they still depend on MSM for most of the hard news, they decide for themselves what it means.

Mistrust and rancor are part of the price we pay for this privilege, but after the Bush-Cheney era gives way to a likely Democratic Administration, will partisan dissatisfaction with the news shift as well? Or do Republicans have the patent on media-bashing?

1 comment:

Ron Davison said...

The mass media still seems to believe that Truth can be told from one perspective. As it turns out, an increasing number of people want the news reported through the lens of their own reality filters. People who believe global warming is a big threat don't want to hear newscasters who have no emotion about corporate growth; same thing, different angle for people who believe that our culture is under attack, and so on.