Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Believe It: The Media's Credibility Headache Gets Worse - New York Times

Believe It: The Media's Credibility Headache Gets Worse - New York Times

Article in today's NY Times by Patrick Healy (sign-up required). He reports that confidence in the media (press and TV - radio isn't mentioned) has reached an all time low ...

Almost like clockwork, each new month seems to usher in a new controversy over journalistic competence or integrity - the latest being the retracted May 9 article in Newsweek, about a report that American interrogators flushed a Koran down the toilet, that has been linked by the White House to at least 17 deaths during anti-American protests that followed.

These events come at a time when American confidence in the news media is at an all-time low. Most other major institutions in public life - while dealing with their own credibility issues - are more trusted.

In the post-Watergate 1970's, some 25 to 30 percent of Americans reported to the Harris Poll that they had a great deal of confidence in the press, more than they had in Congress, unions or corporate America. In the 2005 poll, the press ranked only ahead of law firms, with 12 percent reporting high confidence in the media.

Another poll, in 2003 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, found that 66 percent of Americans see news reports as slanted, compared with 53 percent in 1985. Even more stunning to some analysts, 32 percent judged news organizations to be immoral, up from 13 percent in 1985.

"Today we have a case where the public is suspicious of the values of the news media as well," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "I don't know if it's a crisis, but it's a hell of a growing problem."

For the first time, Pew also asked Americans in 2003 if they believed some news organizations, which were not identified, were becoming too critical of America. Nearly half the respondents, 46 percent, said yes; 48 percent said no.

"More people think media companies are motivated by profit, and put stories on the front page to serve that interest, and that reporters are motivated by their own career advancement more than any concern about the country," Mr. Rosenstiel said.

Perhaps an even more dire forecast came in another Pew report, Trends 2005, which found 45 percent of Americans saying they believed little or nothing of what they read in their daily newspapers, up from 16 percent two decades ago.

Being in the US a few weeks back, I thought the new style of networks like Fox and CNN domestic reminded me of 911 reports, where the news is read and the pictures are just video jingles - like the 3 second sound bites. No time for issues, No time at all from context.

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