You think media deserves lack of trust

Nearly half of comments we’ve received since start of year say media doesn’t do a good job

Since launching this site in mid-November, we’ve been asking you for your ideas on how to improve trust in the media and strengthen our democracy. We’ve summarized and submitted what you’ve told us to the members of the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy ahead of their meeting last week in Miami, Florida. Here is what we told them.

Nearly half — 47 percent–of the comments here from Jan. 1 — Feb. 15 came from people bemoaning the media for lack of objectivity, accountability, and mixing fact with opinion. Some representative comments follow:

  • “A more accurate headline would be: “10 ways to deny the news organisations responsibility in the media trust crisis”…It is like to say “if people don’t eat this brand of apple pie anymore, it’s probably because of some tongue condition that make them unable to appreciate it, and not because the brand replaced 75% of the apples with pear flavoured jelly.” (Posted on “10 Reasons Why Trust in the Media is at an All-Time Low.”)
  • “[L]ets (sic.) face that even if the public no longer trusts the media (call it FOX, CNN, MSNBC, etc.), they still follow opinion leaders: the journalists. Even if they change teams. I think it’s time for journalists to take this into consideration when executing the news reporting — that’s what is all about. Will we see business models for the media based on trust? Is it even possible?” (Posted on “The Battle for the Truth.”)
  • “How about how the media actually reports things? How about how ‘news-ma-tainment’ is all of sudden looped in with Journalism with Integrity? How about how internet headlines infer misleading information?…Media needs to hold itself and each other accountable for accurate and non-biased reporting more than ever. Sites (i.e. Yahoo), as click-bate, (sic.) will list article headlines with absolutely different meaning than articles once you click on them…” (Posted on “10 Reasons Why Trust in the Media is at an All-Time Low.”)

Question: Lack of trust in media is clearly pervasive but the path to improving trust is elusive. Some of the projects and proposals that have been brought before the Commission include The Trust Project, to increase transparency of news outlets; Trusting News, which is working with 30 newsrooms to experiment with ways to increase trust, and Yuval Levin’s recently published white paper, “American Journalism as an Institution,” which urges journalists to stop seeking personal celebrity.

Parachuting journalists. Miranda Spivack, a professor of journalism at DePauw University, wrote: “…In the middle of the country…the local reporters at the small, but well-read newspaper in Greencastle, Indiana at least try to get out and meet their readers (and cover them). But that is not the norm, and certainly was not during the 2016 presidential campaign, where I saw many coastal reporters parachute in and not really getting it once they did. This is Journalism 101. No mystery, but something that either the pressure to produce, or some other factor, is discouraging many big-city reporters from spending the hours they need to spend pounding the pavement and talking to people. Not just zooming in for a quote, but really listening. It takes time. It takes time to establish a trusting relationship with people you interview.” (Posted on “Local News is a Building Block to Rebuild Trust.”)

Question: What pressures contribute to the “parachute” phenomenon?

Follow the money — or the lack of it. Several Medium commenters talked about the lack of an economic model for journalism. One of the most pithy wrote, “When the revenue stream began to narrow, news staffs were cut, copy editors let go, journalism started to feel like a football team that had lost its first string.” (Posted on “10 Reasons Why Trust in the Media is at an All-Time Low.”) “Good journalism needs a vehicle to reach readers who value enough to pay for it. Maybe someone can innovate a business model (beyond individual subscriptions) to scale this. That would be cool,” wrote a Twitter commenter on “What we’re reading: Facebook Edition.”

Question: How much of the behavior that is decried by commenters as leading to lack of trust is directly related to lack of jobs, demands to produce, and the general lack of an economic model to support journalism, especially local journalism?

We need your help to spread the word about the work of the Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy on Medium and on Twitter at #knightcomm. Please visit, read, tweet, and share. Consider contributing a piece.

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