While the news media is coming under pressure for weaknesses in accuracy, fairness and independence, most people still view the press as a reliable watchdog keeping politicians honest, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. In fact, support for the watchdog role has risen ten points since 2011 while all other press ratings have shown little or no improvement.

The public thinks that news organizations do a good job of keeping political leaders in line, with 68 percent saying that news organizations’ criticism keeps leaders from doing what they shouldn’t. Only 21 percent of the people think that this criticism keeps leaders from doing their job. More people think that the press contributes to the democratic process rather than hurting it.

When Pew Research began measuring the public’s attitude toward the press in 1985, the reaction was generally favorable. Most people thought that the news media got facts right, with 55 percent asserting this, while 44 percent said that the press was often inaccurate. However, today’s results show a 29-point decline in the percentage of people thinking that the press gets the facts straight.

The news media is still considered an industry where quality, caring and professionalism counts. Younger people, who may get their news from less traditional channels, also seem to feel that journalists play an important role in helping them make sense of today’s news, given the amount and variety of information available. In fact, most respondents believe that journalists are now more important than in the past in helping make sense of the available news and information.

Despite the criticisms and controversies surrounding how we get our news and who the arbiters are that decide what we see and hear, it appears that most Americans today are comfortable with media playing a role in how and when we get the news. As news delivery channels evolve, it will be vital for news organizations to maintain and build the public’s trust.