Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Evidence is piling up that Americans do not trust the mainstream media (MSM) to get stories right, and to avoid slanting the news that helps Democrats over Republicans. Last week, the Media Insight Project (MIP) released a study showing many Americans do not trust core journalism values. Five journalistic “values or principles” were tested by the survey, and only 1 in 10 Americans supported all five of the values. “Factualism” won the most public support as a journalistic principle, and “social criticism” (concentrating on society’s problems) was least supported. Consumers want to hear about solutions and what works, not problems.
Another MIP study showed that nearly 4 in 10 Americans think that journalists’ political opinions and personal biases determine if they will cover a story at all, and how it will be covered. Just 6% of Republicans stated they have “great deal of confidence” in America’s press.
The current MIP study revealed that “majorities of Americans believe that the media don’t care about them and try to cover up their (own) mistakes”. And, the media pushes an agenda.
Prof. Susan McManus, in a recent presentation to Florida TaxWatch, reported that 72% of Republicans in Florida have “a great deal of skepticism” against the MSM because the media is biased and because they “manipulate stories”.
These results mean that distrust in media runs deep in public attitudes. People are not interested in the opinions of reporters and are worried that many of the concepts journalists believe in are intrusive. There’s no question that public attitudes toward the media have worsened over the last 40 years, as media partisanship has exploded. And 20 years ago, 47% of Republicans said they trusted the media, but today it’s only 10%; meanwhile, Democrats’ trust went from 53% to 73%.
But these issues of distrust are not the major story these days. Rather, the real problem is the greatest disservice the MSM poses to our country.
Many conservatives believe that the culpability and destructiveness of the media goes well beyond these study results. The belief is strong that the MSM is in league with political factions that are attempting to change the American system of values, the ideals and principles given us by the Founding Fathers that guide our society’s behavior. The media’s destructive actions against democracy are obvious: they are primarily to blame for the political division in our nation. Gallup says 84% of Americans conclude that the MSM is to blame for our divided country.
How do they do it? By stirring the pot. By keeping people at each other’s throats. Polarizing and provoking readers and viewers is their goal. It’s all about arousing emotion, kicking the hornet’s nest to get clicks. That’s how they make money. Character assassination has become the media’s means to their end goal of defeating conservative political candidates. Slander in media “reporting” has become a technique. Certainly, the national MSM has done more to divide than unite. They have evolved from serious, fact-based reporting to skewing the facts, pushing their personal agendas, and sensationalizing the news. The result is that today’s journalism has become an occupation that increases life’s frustrations and pains. It does not ameliorate our lives.
Much of the anger we see and hear daily in the press is caused partly by inaccurate and fraudulent reporting of news, by reporters who wear their opinions on their sleeves, by media promotion of identity politics and ho-hum acceptance of cancel-culture and reputation-ruination.
The press’s active, excessive coverage of polarizing events stokes viewers and readers to overestimate their actual degree. This creates more intensity in partisans, to oppose the other side. This also makes the MSM as much of a political player as the partisans or advocates.
All this polarization makes tolerance, compromise and consensus more unlikely. It weakens respect for democratic norms. The electorate loses confidence in politicians and public institutions. The truth loses its weight. When that happens, the people find it increasingly difficult to remain socially responsible and to act in a principled way by insisting on the truth. All this, while the media lurks as a culprit that has played a major role in that decadent decline.
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