Each year, the American people seem to trust the media less and less.
This year’s annual survey from Edelman shows trust in traditional media and social media are at all-time lows. The annual trust barometer, shared exclusively with Axios, found fewer than half of Americans trust traditional media for the first time since the survey began. From Axios (emphasis original):
56% of Americans agree with the statement that “Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”
58% think that “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.”
When Edelman re-polled Americans after the election, the figures had deteriorated even further, with 57% of Democrats trusting the media and only 18% of Republicans.
The media doesn’t seem interested in repairing that trust. The first person Axios quoted about the problem was a woman trying to correct misinformation about vaccines – a laudable goal – but who told The New York Times: “[W]e don’t have a misinformation problem, we have a trust problem.”
Except, media misinformation really is the problem for many Americans. The media regularly gets stories wrong, particularly big stories, with disastrous results. Immediately reporting on police shootings, for example, led to riots and billions of dollars in damage to innocent businesses because the media routinely misreports the facts surrounding those police shootings.
For the first two years of the Trump administration, the media reported anonymous sources “familiar with the matter” to claim that then-President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. Glenn Greenwald collected the 10 “worst, most embarrassing U.S. media failures on the Trump-Russia story,” including CNN and MSNBC’s claim that Donald Trump, Jr. had advanced access to Wikileaks documents, when the email used to verify this was dated after the documents were already released.
We also can’t forget the Covington Catholic or Jussie Smollett media blunders. The media rushed to condemn a group of underage teens as racist when in fact they were being harassed by different groups of adults. The media’s dismal coverage of the saga resulted in numerous lawsuits and multiple settlements.
The opposite occurred with actor Jussie Smollett. In that case, the media rushed to support his claims that were later proven to have not happened as he claimed, though he still maintains his story. Smollett claimed white Trump supporters carrying rope and bleach were apparently out in Chicago in the wee hours of the morning during a polar vortex just looking to attack him because he is gay and black. The impossibility of the claim didn’t stop media outlets from condemning Trump supporters and lionizing Smollett until his story turned out to be a hoax.
In 2020, the media repeatedly referred to the violent summer riots as peaceful even as they stood in front of burning buildings. They also took shots at Trump for saying a coronavirus vaccine would be developed soon. Trump was right and the media was wrong, yet they pretended they never made such sweeping statements.
Instead of insisting the media stop spreading misinformation, Axios’ suggestion was for America’s CEOs (the group found to be most trusted by those surveyed) to start embracing news outlets.