Donald Trump's war with the "fake news media" has only ramped up over the course of his presidency, while mainstream news outlets have become more overtly partisan, as infamously acknowledged by the New York Times executive editor admitting that the paper "built our newsroom" to cover one story — the Robert Mueller-debunked "collusion" conspiracy theory — for Trump's first two years in office. But do Americans agree that the "fake news media" is a problem?
A new study of the public's confidence in the media found that nearly all Americans — over 95% — are troubled about the current state of the media. While many likely wouldn't go so far as to label the media the "enemy of the peope," a majority were indeed very concerned about the prevalance of "fake news," the reporting of "gossip" rather than fact, "Left-wing" and "Right-wing" agendas steering reports, outright "hit pieces" and "gotcha journalism," and the prevalence of "celebrity opinons" and "lying spokespeople."
Boutique PR firm Bospar released its Ethics in Media study this week ahead of a panel the firm is hosting in San Francisco next week. The study, conducted with Propeller Insights, surveyed 1,010 American adults. The results were eye-opening. Over 95% of the respondents said they were "troubled by the current state of media."
Bospar provided the following breakdown of the aspects of reporting that most concerns respondents, top on the list Trump's mantra, "fake news":
Reports on fake news – 53%
Reporting gossip – 49%
Lying spokespeople – 48%
Celebrity opinions – 36%
Left-wing agendas – 34%
Gotcha journalism – 33%
Right-wing agendas – 32%
Puff pieces in exchange for access to other important interviews – 31%
Blind items being reported in the news – 30%
Hit pieces – 21%
Rise of independent contributors versus on-staff media – 14%
And things aren't looking up in most Americans' eyes. The study found that two-thirds (67%) believe that ethics in journalism will only get worse heading into the 2020 election cycle.
Asked about the negative ramifications of the increase in unethical journalism, respondents said it creates "division and partisanship" (64%), "fuels inaccuracies" (63%), "incites hate" (60%), and "creates fear" (57%).
The study also found a political divide on the who are the most ethical in media. While overall, mainstream journalists, national journalists and anchors, were only deemed the "most ethical" by 22% and 15% of respondents, respectively, Republicans were far more likely to view them through a skeptical lens.
"When you look at perceptions of ethics in journalism, based on political affiliation, those aligned with the Democratic Party are significantly more likely to consider national journalists/anchors/reporters ethical, when compared to those aligned with the Republican Party or other minor parties," said Propeller Insights' Gabrielle Ayala, as reported by Bospar. "This is no surprise, given the current battles being waged by all groups in politics and the media to control the narrative and position themselves as the bearers of truth."