Trylon Communications  - July 2005

Down But Not Out

A recent study by The Pew Research Center indicates that Americans are increasingly suspicious of facts being presented by the press…but that there is still a great deal of goodwill towards the Fourth Estate. While believability is down significantly, favorability is down slightly, according to their surveys.

What this means is that while the public likes their television and newspaper news feeds, they believe what is presented to them less frequently. Part of this is political. For example, some Republicans traditionally view the media as a bastion of left wing politicos. In that case, they would not believe any news reports regarding political topics.

As expected, people like different news sources for different reasons. Network television gets high ratings for providing a high-level summary of national and international events. Local television gets credit for providing fact-based coverage of local news. Cable news networks are given high marks for accessibility. Local newspapers are still regarded as mostly fact-based news sources.

Lowest on the list of news sources as fact-based media are Internet blogs and radio talk shows. Most consumers recognize that these forms of news coverage have a higher chance of being slanted by the writers or hosts.

It is no surprise that the Internet continues to grow as a news medium. Almost a fourth of Americans (24%) cite the Internet as the first place they look for news. And while readership of newspapers is down, that is offset by the fact that many people look to the Internet versions of the local daily to get their local coverage.

One of the more pertinent findings in the report is the growing public perception that news stories are picked for economic instead of altruistic reasons. This perception directly affects the trust in news reports and the media itself. The media can protect its reputation by providing balanced, less sensational coverage to important topics.