It started, as many things did, in the eighties. The Reagan administration’s Federal Communications Bureau opposed the Fairness Doctrine on First Amendment principles, an argument that I’d accept from any president other than Ronald Reagan. The rise of cable news cut into the Big Three’s advertising dollars and influence. Then Rush Limbaugh and FOX News showed the appetite for news that palliated the distemper among conservative media consumers. At the turn of the millennium Bernie Goldberg’s Bias was in the air a lot. With the internet and social media transforming the nature of curiosity itself, we found it harder work to read news that disrupted our ideological rhythms.
The results of this Gallup poll should shock CNN:
Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.
The divisive presidential election this year may be corroding Americans’ trust and confidence in the media, particularly among Republicans who may believe the “mainstream media” are too hyperfocused on every controversial statement or policy proposal from Trump while devoting far less attention to controversies surrounding the Clinton campaign. However, the slide in media trust has been happening for the past decade. Before 2004, it was common for a majority of Americans to profess at least some trust in the mass media, but since then, less than half of Americans feel that way. Now, only about a third of the U.S. has any trust in the Fourth Estate, a stunning development for an institution designed to inform the public.
Fifty years of Ed Murrow references and phrases like “the Fourth Estate” are exactly why Americans regard reporters as pompous asses – even the ones who don’t remember Peter Jennings.
In the last few days as Trump’s poll numbers have increased I’ve listened to talking heads lament how information isn’t getting through to the public. Promotion of the Trump Foundation and foreign entanglements stories begs to differ. Blame, if that’s the correct word, social media. If your Facebook feed includes Breitbart, Redstate, and World News Daily Report, these stories won’t show up.