Pew Monitors Changing Views about the News Media

News media organizations losing luster with Americans
News organizations are losing their luster with Americans, according to the Pew Research Center.
The Pew Research Center for People and the Press has been surveying American adults since 1985 about their views of the news media.

A new comprehensive report, incorporating results up to and including field surveys conducted in 2011, finds that negative opinions about the performance of news media are higher than ever on nine of twelve key measures studied.

Here are some sobering stats from this year’s consumer pulse:

 ~66% of respondents believe that news stories are often inaccurate
 ~77% think that news organizations tend to favor one side over another politically
 ~80% believe that news organizations are influenced by powerful people and organizations

The findings on the accuracy of news reporting are particularly striking. As few as four years ago, ~39% of respondents felt that news organizations “mostly get the facts straight” while ~53% believed that the news stories were “often inaccurate.”

Today’s those numbers look more depressing: Only ~25% say that news organizations tend to get the facts straight, while ~66% contend that news stories are often inaccurate.

[Of course, when it comes to respondents’ own preferred news outlets, the figures don’t look nearly as dismal. In fact, nearly two thirds of the respondents believe their preferred news sources get the facts mostly correct.]

Who does the public see as the leading “news media” these days? Cable TV organizations clearly lead in the rankings, with network news now pushed down the list:

 ~43% named CNN as a “news organization”
 ~39% named Fox News
 ~18% named NBC News
 ~16% named ABC News
 ~12% named CBS News
 ~12% named MSNBC
 ~10% named local TV news

It’s been a long fall for CBS News in particular, which was once considered the ace news broadcast network in the United States.

In general terms, who do people trust most as a source of news? The answer may be surprising to some: Top-ranked are local news organizations:

 Local news organizations: ~69% of people have “a lot” or “some” trust
 National news organizations: ~59%
 State government: ~51%
 Presidential administration: ~50%
 Federal government agencies: ~44%
 Business corporations: ~41%
 U.S. Congress: ~37%
 Political candidates: ~29%

And as far as where people go for news, TV and the Internet continue to be the top two sources. But consider how those rankings have changed. Five years ago, TV was cited by 74% of survey respondents as one of the two top news sources … but that figure has now declined to ~66%.

As for the Internet, it’s grown from ~24% saying it’s a top-two source for news in 2007, to ~43% today.

Meanwhile, newspapers are staying on the decline … so that today, only ~31% of respondents place them among the two top sources of news. Newspapers continue to have their partisans among the over-65 age segment, but younger than this, it’s just a lost cause.

But there’s one bright spot for newspapers: They continue to be recognized as a leading source of local news. This helps explain why many small-town and local papers have been better able to navigate the choppy waters of newspaper publishing better than their big-city counterparts.

There are many more interesting findings outlined in the latest Pew news organization survey. For more details, click here.

2 thoughts on “Pew Monitors Changing Views about the News Media

  1. I think everybody understands that the newspaper business has set sail for the Antipodes. Or has it?

    You say, “But there’s one bright spot for newspapers: They continue to be recognized as a leading source of local news.” This rings true. Whether it’s enough remains to be seen. Years ago, when television came along, radio had to reinvent itself. The days of Fibber McGee and Molly came to an end. But radio discovered musical formats and prospered.

    More recently, AM radio has reinvented itself yet again, replacing music with news and sports talk.

    So what about papers? Surely it boils down to content. What can papers do well? What perhaps needs to change? Those of us in the media business think about these things.

    Let me put just one proposition on the table: Maybe local dailies need to rethink their editorial pages. In the old days, when most cities had more than one daily, papers saw themselves as, among other things, political advocates. Everybody had an editorial page where they would stake out their political patch and support (or oppose) certain local, state, and national politicians. Perhaps in Washington, DC, and NYC, papers can still do that. But I’m not sure that papers in, say, Milwaukee or Nashville still have that luxury. When you take a certain political position, you automatically alienate a whopping number of potential readers. That’s something most papers can no longer afford.

    I know it’s a radical departure from the past. But perhaps it’s time editorial pages gave equal space to several points of view. Not because of some quaint deference to the “fairness doctrine” … but because they need all the readers they can get.

    • Whaddayaknow. Today, the Chicago Sun-Times announced it has decided to stop endorsing political candidates. In a story posted on WBBM’s website, the CBS Chicago affiliate said:

      —Today, newspapers’ goal is to appea[l] to the widest readership they can with unbiased news coverage.

      “They want to inform you, not spin you,” the Sun-Times said.

      The Sun-Times went on to call editorials “telling you what to do.”

      “As many of you have told us, you can make up your own mind, thank you very much,” the editorial said. “We endorse that opinion.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s