Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Trust and the media: Earlier this month the Pew Research Center came out with a survey showing that Americans have taken the old axiom to "not believe everything you read" to heart.
The report is chock full of what you'd expect -- more Republicans watch and trust Fox News, more Democrats watch and trust CNN, nobody watches MSNBC -- but the thing that struck me was the data on America's "newspaper of record."
On the issue of media credibility, I wasn't surprised to find that only 14 percent of Republicans believe all or most of what they read in The New York Times. I was surprised to read, however, that less than a third (31 percent) of Democrats believe all or most of what they read in the Times.
Unfortunately, the Times wasn't part of the Pew survey in previous years, so we're unable to determine if there has been a downward trend in recent years because of the Jayson Blair scandal and various crusades during the Howell Raines reign.
The media has got a serious problem -- not just the Times -- because the "your local paper" had even worse numbers than the Times.
I think the first part of the solution is being far more open about the political and ideological views of the reporters and editors. We can strive for objectivity while still admitting our biases -- and let our readers or viewers sort out the truth with more complete information.
Second, an effort needs to be made to hire a more ideologically diverse staff. Conservatives seem to be able to make it on the opinion pages -- but not elsewhere in the newsroom.
Finally, we need to be honest when we make mistakes. The New York Times is willing to identify and correct every little misspelled name, but won't correct a big headline, front page story. Of course, my paper committed the same sin and hasn't corrected it either -- and I appear to be the only one troubled by it.