04/12/2005: Media Lament
Here's an interesting "Media Lament" by Nicholas D. Kristof (NY Times) called A Slap In The Face. Mr. Kristof writes in part:
"...Since 1973, the National Opinion Research Center has measured public confidence in 13 institutions, including the press. All of the other institutions have generally retained a good measure of public respect, but confidence in the press has fallen sharply since 1990.
Those of us in the press tend to get defensive about our dwindling credibility. We protest that we've been made scapegoats by partisan demagogues, particularly on the right, and I think that's true. But distrust for the news media, even if it's unfair, is the new reality - and we will have to work much, much harder to win back our credibility with the public.
In any case, it's not just right-wingers who distrust the media these days. The Pew Research Center found that while only 14 percent of Republicans believe all or most of what they read in The New York Times, even among Democrats the figure is only 31 percent. Other major news organizations face the same challenge. The Fox News Channel is considered credible by fewer than one-third of the Republicans - and an even smaller number of Democrats. Indeed, it's a rare news organization that is trusted by more than one-third of the people in either party: the one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the news media are not trustworthy....
....If one word can capture the public attitude toward American journalists, I'm afraid it's "arrogant." Not surprisingly, I think that charge is grossly unfair. But it's imperative that we respond to that charge - not by dismissing it, but by working far more diligently to reconnect with the public.
Unless we can recover the public trust, our protests about reporters' going to jail will come across as self-serving whining. And we'll wake up one day to find ourselves on the wrong side of history."
I think, while this "where's the credibility" may be a "good" question to ask, the larger underlying issue which has become the bugaboo for many "professions" over the past decades has been the transformation from no longer being in the "News Business" but the Media entities and the people they "hire" as becoming a "Ratings Business" or a "Business to make Money and Profits." Not that "money and profits" aren't important...but they are the issues driving this vehicle. It used to be the quality of the news people and the coverage of "Both Sides" of important issues created the viewership and thereby drove the ratings and was equivalent of "good for business."
If I was to "lament" anything it would be the suffocation and demise of the requirement of the "equal coverage" for news and public opinion to opposing issues and sides which has been tossed aside in the past two decades. My husband was a former news journalist and Radio/Television personality -- News anchor at Channel 12 in Milwaukee during the early 1980's. He has been "shocked" at the results to "over rule" this requirement and its effects on the coverage of the "News."
Because, what you now have, without this guiding principle, is organizations tipped so far to one side, or another that their coverage is on its face "biased." And it is this very "lost quality" that has generated the "effect" Mr. Kristof now laments as the loss of the "Media Credibility."
And today there are entire groups calling themselves "News" organizations built around not presenting an accurate, cross discussion over any particular issue, but catering and pandering to the largest common denominator of public viewership it can get to drive up "ratings" to increase "ad revenue" prices, and buy yet more stations for putting forth these "Messages" which are not "News" but opinions masquerading as News.
Unless there is an outcry, from the "News people", or the public, to insist there be this principle reinstituted on a nationwide basis for "news" and "public information"...there "down the drain" of public opinion goes the "credibility" of these News reporters -- and there it will stay.
Karen on 04.12.05 @ 06:58 AM CST