While the nation’s morals continue to decay, divorce rates soar and families are, as a result, rent asunder with consequent increase in crime rates, it is baffling that the news and entertainment media have not paused to rethink the negative impact of some of their publications and telecasts. The fact that the message, particularly in some violent TV shows and films, remains so unedifying and unchanging proves that the media are not heeding what the public is saying.
That seems to be the point the findings of two recent national surveys made.
A National cultural values survey commissioned by the Culture and Media Institute (CMI) shows that the news and entertainment media contribute to the corruption of the nation’s moral values.
A Gallup Poll on American’s Confidence in Institutions corroborated some of CMI’s findings: In the Gallup survey, conducted last month from June 11-14, Americans revealed that they have relatively “low levels of confidence” in the Fourth Estate. Just 23% of Americans say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in television news, and only 22% express the same sentiment for newspapers. Neither of these two journalistic entities have done exceedingly well in Gallup’s history of polls, but both are particularly low this year.
Gallup did not say specifically why its sample of 1,007 adult respondents nationwide think of the media the way they do, but previous surveys have faulted the accuracy, fairness and balance of media coverage.
The National Cultural Values Survey found that “large majorities of every significant demographic category of American adults believe the media are harming the nation’s moral values.”
Some other findings of the CMI survey were that “74 percent of Americans believe the nation’s moral values have declined over the past twenty years, and large majorities hold the media responsible for contributing to that decline.”
According to the survey, “64 percent of Americans agree the media are an important factor in shaping moral values. Only 7 percent say the media are not important in shaping moral values. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say the media have a negative impact on moral values in this country. But 9 percent say the media impact is positive.”
The CMI survey found that 73 percent of Americans believe “the entertainment industry is having a negative impact on moral values in this country. Only 7 percent say the entertainment industry is having a positive impact. Fifty-four percent of Americans believe the news media have a negative impact on moral values in this country. Only 11 percent say the news media have a positive impact.”
Clearly, “the widespread American belief that the news and entertainment media are damaging the nation’s moral values is justified by the results,” the National Cultural Values survey added.
The nation deserves more edifying entertainment and news and less unseemly and corrupting material from the media. The media can do better. Society needs the appropriate support from the media to promote basic family values, and inculcate in our youth the virtues they need to live responsible lives.
Suffice to say that the media may do well to learn from the life and work of Walter Williams (1864-1935), founder of the Missouri School of Journalism, globally known for his Journalist’s Creed, which among other principles states: “?I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees of the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust?.I believe that the journalism which succeeds best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent;?is profoundly patriotic?.”