The reason U.S. trust in the media reached an all-time low this year has nothing to do with the quality of the coverage, according to a recent study. Instead, the problem is that “not all Americans universally embrace core journalism values.”
The “major study,” co-sponsored by the world’s largest news organization found that most Americans want the facts — they just don’t want reporters’ spin. And they disagree with the legacy media’s insistence on showcasing the nation’s problems.
“When journalists say they are just doing their jobs, in other words, the problem is many people harbor doubts about what the job should be,” said the American Press Institute, which partnered with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research for the survey.
The Media Insight Project said the vast majority of U.S. citizens agree with only one of the five pillars it considers foundational for journalists: 67% of Americans endorsed “factualism,” the “idea that the more facts people have, the closer they will get to the truth.”
Only one other value – “giving voice to the less powerful” — received support from 50% of the American people.
The other half said that journalists’ skewing stories to “amplify the voices of people who aren’t ordinarily heard” is “overdone” and that their news coverage “doesn’t help” the people featured.
Readers overwhelmingly rejected the media’s single-minded focus on America’s alleged faults, defects, and deficiencies.
“There is least support for the idea that a good way to make society better is to spotlight its problems,” the survey found. “Only 29% agree.”
The study labeled this coverage “social criticism.”
Readers also said the media spend too much time attacking those in authority, and they should put national security ahead of transparency. “Sometimes all of the information” — such as classified information — “cannot be released.” And “without the right context,” these stories can “hinder progress and leave room for gross misinterpretation,” readers said.
Only about one in 10 Americans support these values, which guide the story selection and framing of the Associated Press, which co-sponsored the study.
“While journalists may consider the five journalism values we identified as universal,” the study said, only 11% of the American people share the reporters’ worldview.
And the legacy media’s least critical consumers tended to be overwhelmingly on the Left.
More than three out of four (78%) of the people the survey dubs “Journalism Supporters” are Democrats, and 62% are liberals.
The survey makes clear, journalists’ core constituency is well outside the mainstream.
Most readers know reporters’ coverage well — and they don’t trust it.
The largest group of Americans “consumed a lot of news, but at the same time they were fairly suspicious of the news media.” They make up 35% of the population, and “only half of these people were Republicans.”
“This is a group that the news media is reaching but to a large degree failing to earn their trust,” the Media Project noted.
The survey’s conclusions echo numerous other studies over the years. A 2020 Gallup poll found that 81% of Americans consider a functional news media “critical” or “very important” for sustaining a healthy government. But 83% said that media coverage is biased — and that the media drive divisions among Americans.
The Media Project’s survey is a tortured way of refusing to state the obvious: The legacy media are out of step with the vast majority of the American people. Their reporters’ values align with fewer than one out of every five readers — and they are almost exclusively on the Left of the political spectrum. Instead of changing the way they cover the news, legacy media outlets blame the fact-starved public for lacking the sophistication to understand what journalism is.
Ben Johnson (@TheRightsWriter) is the Media Reporter at The Daily Wire. He previously worked at the Acton Institute, FrontPage Magazine, and LifeSiteNews. He’s the author of three books, including Party of Defeat (2008, with David Horowitz).