Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan disagrees with Sean Hannity that journalism is dead, but she admits that it is suffering from some self-inflicted body blows—namely the sharp drop in public trust—and she’s advising her colleagues on how to restore it.
“‘Maybe this situation calls for a return to the old view, which asks for less analysis and more reporting, less personality and more facts,’ said David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who spent 25 years in Washington with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for history-conscious political columns.
Consider: The last time trust in the media was sky-high was in the mid-1970s. Back then, more than seven in 10 Americans gave reporters and editors the thumbs-up, according to studies. (It has been sinking ever since, dropping to 32 percent last year, according to a Gallup poll .)”
What a novel idea—more reporting, less opinion—and maybe not working so hard to elect a president so that even the least informed voters can see through their agenda.
Sullivan says that despite the low marks for trust, the media rate highly when it comes to being a watchdog over government corruption. But according to Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at the Pew Research Center, that is offset by the high numbers of those who see bias, which hurts trust.
Trust in the media has been eroding for decades as the media decided that advocating for a liberal agenda was more important than being accurate. And they were largely able to get away with it since they controlled the media outlets, from broadcast networks to newspapers and radio.
All of that changed with the launching of Fox News on cable in 1996 and the emergence of the Internet soon after, giving conservatives an opportunity to expose liberal media bias to an audience that had grown distrustful of the media over the years.
Liberals no longer fully control the media, with Fox News dominating cable news ratings, and sites like Breitbart, Drudge Report, Daily Caller and Newsmax attracting a large and loyal following, much to the dismay of the the liberal media.
Sullivan, however, is hopeful that the media can reverse the trend if they focus on what she sees as their true role:
“Trust in journalism may never get back to the post-Watergate level. But by holding government accountable, emphasizing accuracy and standing firm for factual reality, we can regain some of what’s lost.”
That’s pretty decent advice. But given their coverage of President Trump to date—and with Trump’s frequent tweets about the “dishonest media”—it’s not likely that the public’s view of the media will improve anytime soon.