Do You Trust the News Media?
A generation ago, I rarely heard anyone question the validity of something reported by the news media. They might have not liked the story, but rarely did I hear people say what was being reported wasn't true.
Slowly that changed and years later Donald Trump came along and started dropping the words "fake news" on a daily basis. People questioned what they were hearing in the news media.
A survey has now shown that less than half of the Canadians who were asked have trust in the stories they hear and see in the media. It's a finding I can't agree with.
A Matter of Trust
Earlier this month, an interesting and sobering survey was released about the trust Canadians have in the news media.
The study, produced by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, found that the trust Canadians have in the news media is at an all-time low. Only 42 percent of Canadians trust “most news, most of the time”.
Less than half of Canadians believe what they see and hear from the news media. Isn’t that at least a little shocking?
The survey had another piece of news that surprised me. There’s a growing segment of the population who actively avoid the news – they go out of their way not to hear what’s happening in their community and the world from the news media. 71 percent of those surveyed actively avoid the news media, at least occasionally. That’s a big jump from 55 percent just five years ago.
In other words, almost three out of every four Canadians sometimes avoid hearing the news on purpose. Perhaps that’s not surprising considering COVID and everything that’s happened for the last couple of years.
The bottom line is, the percentage of Canadians who don’t trust the news media is at an all-time high and more people are actually trying to avoid the news.
What Are We Talking About?
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this. I’ve heard more people than ever over the past couple of years saying they don’t trust mainstream media.
First though, I think we need to define what we are talking about. “The media” is a pretty big thing. Are we talking about the local news media, which means our daily and weekly newspapers and local TV and radio news? Do we mean national newspapers like the Globe and Mail and TV news programming from the CBC, CTV or Global? Perhaps it’s the American news media we’re talking about, like Fox and CNN. Then of course there’s a growing number of online news organizations. Some of them are terrific and have exceptionally high journalistic standards. Others are pure propaganda machines that are filled with misinformation and lies.
What are we talking about when we say we don’t trust “the media”? Which media outlets don’t you trust?
It seems to me if somebody doesn’t trust the CBC because they see it as a Liberal propaganda machine filled with politically-correct journalism these days, they may say they don’t trust the news media. If you don’t like CBC that’s fine. However, the CBC is not “the media.” It's just a part of it.
What about the reporting done in local newspapers, or on local TV? Do you trust that?
I do and here’s why. I know the reporters do the same job as I did when I was in the media. They try to find the news in most stories. That sometimes upsets people who wonder why certain stories get coverage, or perhaps to put it better, why some stories get so much coverage. But when I read a local newspaper and see the work from reporters in my community, I believe their reporting. I think if somebody is providing coverage of a high-profile court case, they did their best to give an accurate description of what happened in court. If another reporter is writing about a government announcement, it’s their job to report on what the government announced and, in some cases, get reaction to the story.
Just because you don’t like the government and/or the announcement, don’t blame the reporter for their story. They were just doing their job. I trust what they’re reporting.
Some people say the media is looking for bad news. No, the media is looking for news. That’s why it’s called the news media.
We're Not Perfect
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not perfect in Canada.
Postmedia has openly said it has a political agenda in its reporting and you can see it in its coverage.
Postmedia was the result of the merger of Canada’s two largest newspaper chains. That obviously wasn’t a good thing for journalism.
We also have the Canadian government giving handouts to many media organizations. There’s no way that doesn’t affect some of their reporting.
Despite that, and other issues affecting the news media in Canada, if I responded to that survey I would say that I do trust the media most of the time. Then again, I understand there’s a difference in news reporting and opinions and commentary. Many people don’t. Just because I don’t like what David Staples writes in the Edmonton Journal doesn’t mean I don’t trust the work of the paper’s reporters. Just because I don’t like what Andrew Coyne has to say, doesn’t mean I don’t trust the news reporting done.
I guess I’m now in the minority who say they generally trust what they see and read in the news media. As someone who spent 15 years in the media, that’s not a good feeling.
For those who say they don’t trust the media though, I would like some specifics. What don’t you trust? Why?
If you say you don’t trust anything in mainstream media, then I don’t trust your opinion.
Summer is Here!
I plan to cut back on blog writing over the summer, so I can enjoy it before it's gone. I'll be back from time to time, but won't be here every week. Enjoy your summer.
This is so very sad. The mainstream media is not perfect, but what's the alternative? How do I evaluate the validity and bias of what's on the web, or argue with the alternative facts thrown at me in discussions with people I once believed to be reasonable? Recently, a longtime neighbour and friend scoffed at me for wearing a mask when I came to his door and asked if I get my information from fake news like CBC and CTV. I asked if he got his misinformation from Rebel and Breitbart. He slammed the door in my face. His wife made him call me to apologize, but we haven't spoken again in months. In the past, we at least all saw the same thing and could debate the facts from there, but now we all have completely different information, so how do we even start an intelligent or respectful conversation?
And my daughter is considering Journalism next year???
Sorry to hear that Robert. Have your daughter call me if I can help.