Trust in Media

June 9, 2017 – Volume 27, Issue 21
Can news outlets regain the public's confidence? By Chuck McCutcheon

Introduction

Supporters of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump protest alleged bias by CNN at the cable network's offices (AFP/Getty Images/Mark Ralston)  
Supporters of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump protest alleged bias by CNN at the cable network's offices in Hollywood, Calif., on Oct. 22, 2016. As president, Trump frequently criticizes the media. “If the media's job is to … tell the truth, the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade,” he said at a rally marking his 100th day in office. (AFP/Getty Images/Mark Ralston)

Journalism is facing a credibility crisis. Declining faith in government and other institutions and a decades-long assault by conservatives have hurt mainstream news outlets. And President Trump has called journalists “the enemy of the American people.” Recent incidents involving public figures, including a Montana congressional candidate's alleged assault on a reporter, have underscored the hostility that journalists face. Some traditional media also have suffered from self-inflicted wounds by blurring the lines between news and commentary and ignoring the interests of rural readers to focus on well-off urbanites. Ad revenue and subscriptions at newspapers have plummeted, in part due to the rise of the internet and changing consumer habits. Meanwhile, social media have fostered “echo chambers” in which people seek out news that affirms their beliefs. Journalists and those studying the news business say mainstream outlets must be more transparent about how they do their jobs and more skillful at explaining events to survive.

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Overview

The annual White House Correspondents' Dinner is known for its movie stars and not-so-gentle ribbing of the president. But this year's event was different. For the first time in 36 years, the president didn't attend. And one of journalism's legendary figures offset the glamour and jokes with a sober assertion countering criticism of the mainstream media as biased.

“Journalists should not have a dog in the political fight except to find that best obtainable version of the truth,” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, whose work uncovering the Watergate scandal in the 1970s helped spur President Richard M. Nixon's resignation, said in a speech at the April gala.1

That same night, 95 miles away, at a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., to mark his 100th day in office, President Trump delivered a different message about journalists. “Their priorities are not my priorities, and not your priorities,” Trump told a cheering, partisan crowd. “If the media's job is to be honest and tell the truth, the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade.”2

Woodward's and Trump's remarks illustrate the conflicting views that confront traditional news outlets as they try to rebuild public trust in the media that polls show has hit bottom. Those outlets — newspapers, magazines, websites and broadcast networks with professional, nonpartisan staffs — are victims of an overall decline of faith in government and nongovernmental institutions, as well as constant assaults from politicians that have put them in the crosshairs of today's polarized political climate. Trump is the latest leader of the assaults, labeling journalists “the enemy of the American people” and dismissing unfavorable coverage of him as “fake news.”Footnote * 3

Fox News proclaims its clout at its New York studios (Getty Images/Drew Angerer)  
Fox News proclaims its clout at its New York studios. Attitudes about media outlets, particularly Fox and The New York Times, reflect partisan views. According to a recent poll, 73 percent of Republicans found Fox credible — compared to 45 percent of Democrats. The Times drew a 76 percent credibility rating from Democrats versus 52 percent from Republicans. (Getty Images/Drew Angerer)

The media also have deeply fragmented as the internet has given rise to a cacophony of voices casting doubt on traditional-media staples — notably the use of anonymous sources and the concepts of neutrality and dispassionate reporting. Facebook and other social media have fostered that cacophony by creating “echo chambers” that affirm people's beliefs and enable them to spread information — accurate and inaccurate — faster than ever.

But trust in the media also has been hurt by self-inflicted wounds, including blurred lines between news and commentary; fabricated stories written by rogue reporters; a focus on well-off urbanites while giving less attention to rural Americans; and the post-9/11 failure to aggressively challenge the unfounded claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In addition, competition for readers has led some outlets to focus on “clickbait” — frivolous and incendiary stories, some untrue — at the expense of substantive topics.

Journalists and those studying the news business say mainstream media outlets must rise to the challenge by performing skillfully in the face of greater outside pressure and shrinking resources. They also must devote more energy to educating readers, listeners and viewers about how they operate.

“Journalism has a trust problem…. There's a growing rift between news organizations and the consumers they exist to serve,” said Benjamin Mullin, managing editor of Poynter.org, the website for the Poynter Institute, a journalism-training center in St. Petersburg, Fla.4

Recent Gallup polls suggest the rift is wide:

  • Just 32 percent of Americans trust the media, the lowest level recorded since Gallup began asking the question in 1972.5

  • Forty-one percent of the respondents to another survey asking about the honesty and ethical standards of 22 professions ranked journalists “low” or “very low.” Only members of Congress and car salespeople scored lower.6

  • Sixty-two percent of Americans said the media favor one political party over the other, compared with 50 percent in past years.7

News organizations' failure to engender trust could cause society to splinter even further, warns Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a centrist Washington, D.C., think tank.

“The press needs to rebuild its trust with the public,” Rosenstiel says. “We've got to create [news stories] in such a way that people will say, ‘I don't like the tone of that, but yeah, I'll accept it, because it's probably true.’”

The bar graph shows the percentages of U.S. adults, in 2016 and 2017, who say national news media do very well or fairly well at keeping them informed.  

Long Description

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the national news media do a very good job of keeping people informed. The percentage of Republicans with that view dropped 6 points over the last year, while the percentage of Democrats who feel that way increased by 5 points.

Source: Surveys conducted March 13-27, 2017, and Jan. 12-Feb. 8, 2016, “Americans' Attitudes About the News Media Deeply Divided Along Partisan Lines,” Pew Research Center, May 10, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/lwvktsu

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Political party Fairly well Very well
Republican 2016 53% 24%
Democrat 2016 55% 28%
Independent 2016 56% 20%
Republican 2017 51% 18%
Democrat 2017 55% 33%
Independent 2017 56% 15%

The two biggest reasons people do not trust news are that they consider it one-sided or inaccurate, according to a 2016 poll by the Press Institute — a nonpartisan media-research organization in Arlington, Va.8

Yet the entire notion of “wrong” has become politicized. Trump made so many assertions judged false that the Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” its 2016 word of the year.9 One of his advisers, Kellyanne Conway, caused an uproar in January when she described a questionable assertion about the size of Trump's inauguration crowd as an “alternative fact.”10 Another aide defended giving Trump a false magazine cover warning of a forthcoming ice age instead of global warming at a briefing by contending the information it contained was “fake but accurate.”11

But more than most issues, Gallup and other polls show, media mistrust reflects the country's entrenched political divide.

A Pew Research Center poll in May found a 47 percentage-point gap between Democrats and Republicans over whether criticism from the media helps keep politicians honest — the largest gap since Pew began asking the question in 1985.12 And according to a Morning Consult poll in December, 73 percent of Republicans found GOP-leaning Fox News credible — compared to 45 percent of Democrats. The New York Times drew a credibility rating of 76 percent from Democrats versus 52 percent from Republicans.13

Mistrust of the media is not a strictly partisan issue. African-Americans have accused the media of failing to recognize the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the importance of events fueling its rise.

Media scholars say some outlets have fueled the divide by coarsening discourse and lambasting news organizations whose politics differ from theirs. They also say the growth of watchdog groups, such as Media Matters and the Media Research Center, has added to the divide. Wealthy partisans finance many of those groups, which track inaccurate reporting, media bias and political gaffes.

Journalists of late have had to endure additional abuse. Four incidents occurred in May:

  • A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guard allegedly pinned a reporter for CQ Roll Call against a wall as he sought to ask commissioners a question at FCC headquarters in Washington, then forced him to leave a public meeting. An FCC commissioner apologized for the incident.

  • In Montana, Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault after he allegedly threw a reporter to the ground who asked him a question. After winning the special election for the state's at-large House seat, Gianforte apologized for his conduct.

  • Dan Heyman, a Public News Service reporter in West Virginia, was arrested after trying to question Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in a state Capitol hallway. Heyman said he was holding his phone toward Price to record him; police said he was trying to bypass Price's security detail.

  • Reporter Nathanial Herz of the Alaska Dispatch News said state Sen. David Wilson (R-Wasilla) slapped him across the face after he asked the senator a question. Herz filed a police report, and the case has been turned over to the state's Office of Special Prosecution.14

Also in May, several windows were shattered at the offices of Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader, with investigators attributing the damage to small-caliber bullets, or possibly a BB gun. Newspaper publisher Rufus M. Friday cited a rise in hostile rhetoric toward journalists.15

For some media veterans, the media's role in uncovering inaccurate statements by Trump and other politicians while serving as the public's government watchdog is the biggest barometer of the media's future credibility.

“If the media for whatever reason fails to meet this challenge, then democracy as we have known it will slowly die,” longtime television network correspondent Marvin Kalb, a professor emeritus at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and founding director of its Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, said in March.16

Those on the political right, however, see the mainstream media — or what they call the “legacy media” — as facing an insurmountable obstacle to rebuilding public trust. Above all, perhaps, they consider the media guilty of hypocrisy for its perceived bias against Republicans while insisting it favors neither party.

“The biggest challenge facing journalists today is a self-inflicted problem: too many activists with bylines posing as neutral observers, and they've been found out,” says John Bicknell, executive editor of Watchdog.org, a network of websites covering local and state government funded by the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a news organization based in Alexandria, Va., with a free-market, limited-government perspective. “Once you've destroyed your own credibility, it's very difficult to get it back — and we see that in many, if not most, legacy newsrooms.”17

Both conservative and liberal journalism observers say generalizing about “the media” is difficult, in large part because it encompasses an ever-growing array of news and information sources, each with its own mission and leanings.

The line graph shows the number of newsroom employees at U.S. newspapers from 2004 to 2015.  

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Newspapers in the United States cut more than 24,000 newsroom jobs — a decline of 37 percent — between 2004 and 2015, the most recent year data were available. Layoffs and buyouts among reporters and editors are expected to continue as newspapers struggle with falling circulation and ad revenue.

Source: “Newspapers Fact Sheet,” Pew Research Center, June 1, 2017, p. 8, https://tinyurl.com/yb8g77ht

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Year Number of employees
2004 65,440
2005 66,490
2006 68,610
2007 68,160
2008 65,720
2009 56,230
2010 51,390
2011 50,250
2012 47,740
2013 45,450
2014 43,170
2015 41,400

“Lumping these disparate entities under the same single, bland label is like describing the denizens of the ocean as ‘the fish,’” wrote Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi.18

Despite such media diversity, the public tends to focus on national — not local — outlets when expressing mistrust. Joy Mayer, a consulting fellow at the University of Missouri's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, says she noticed this when speaking with readers and viewers around the country for a project she leads on media trust-building.

Edgar Maddison Welch surrenders to police (AP Photo/Sathi Soma)  
Edgar Maddison Welch surrenders to police in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 4, 2016. Armed with an assault rifle, the Salisbury, N.C., man drove to Washington to try to stop what online conspiracy theories falsely said was a child sex ring being run by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton out of a local pizza restaurant. Media experts and scholars say many voters were swayed during the presidential campaign by the proliferation of so-called fake news spread by alternative news websites and social media. (AP Photo/Sathi Soma)

“I couldn't believe how quickly, in most people's minds, ‘the media’ jumps to national political coverage,” Mayer says. “I tell them, ‘The media are people who cover your local school board and high school sports.’”

The notion of “journalist” also is being expanded with the phenomenon of cellphone video capturing news incidents and social media's ability to give members of the general public the power to give direct on-the-scene reports while sharing information among friends.

Social media have created what Rosenstiel calls the “atomization of the news,” in which people place more trust in who shared information with them than in the quality of news brands. That phenomenon, he says, helped fuel the “fake news” phenomenon.

As journalists, academics and others debate trust in the news media, here are some of the questions being raised:

Are traditional standards of objective journalism outdated?

One of the bedrock principles of traditional journalism is objectivity, generally defined as not playing favorites despite one's personal views. But the notion of objectivity has come under attack from critics of President Trump, who say his unfitness for the presidency demands the media take up an advocacy role to portray the truth more directly and accurately.

Many veteran journalists say objectivity is essential to developing trust. Media outlets, they say, have an obligation never to identify with any side in a conflict or other issue.

“Journalists in this tradition [of objectivity] have plenty of opinions, but by setting them aside to follow the facts — as a judge in court is supposed to set aside prejudices to follow the law and the evidence — they can often produce results that are more substantial and more credible,” former Times executive editor Bill Keller said.19

In January, Lewis Wallace was fired from his job a reporter for the syndicated business radio show “Marketplace” after publishing an article on the website Medium. 20 Journalists, Wallace wrote, “need to become more shameless, more raw, more honest with ourselves and our audiences” instead of simply reacting passively to what he predicted would be arrests and other attempts to curtail media freedom of speech under Trump.21

Among the most vocal critics of objectivity is American journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose articles in London's Guardian contained classified information on U.S. government surveillance in 2013 released by former national-security contractor Edward Snowden. “This voice that people at NPR and PBS and CNN are required to assume, where they're supposed to display this kind of non-human neutrality about the world in which they're reporting, is a deceitful, artificial one,” said Greenwald, editor of the national-security website The Intercept. 22

Kerry Lauerman, executive editor of the liberal-leaning news and commentary website Mic, which targets Millennials, encourages reporters not to hide their views. “We're stronger by having people with different points of view approach things with those points of view,” Lauerman said. “It probably does further erode the sort of old-fashioned notion of objectivity. But I think that's better for journalism, too.”23

Some critics of traditional media point to earlier eras to argue that mainstream journalism never has been truly objective — and should stop pretending it is.

Objectivity “has seldom existed in American history, and has especially been scarce since the 1960s, when activist journalism came out of the closet with its ideological coverage of Vietnam and then Watergate, all perfumed with the spurious claim to journalistic integrity and public service,” said Bruce Thornton, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.24

Other critics fault the language of objectivity. National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg pointed to The Associated Press stylebook's barring the use of “illegal immigrants,” though “illegal immigration” is still permitted. Instead, The AP and other outlets have recommended terms such as “unauthorized” and “undocumented” for immigrants.

That usage, Goldberg said, is part of left-wing pro-immigration activists' agenda “to blur the distinctions between legal and illegal immigration…. As a matter of fact and logic, the difference between an ‘unauthorized immigrant’ and an ‘illegal immigrant’ is nonexistent.”25

Many journalists say absolute objectivity is impossible, given the inherent subjective nature of choosing one fact over another in telling a story.

But they say that something close to it can be achieved by doing rigorous reporting offering deep insights. That includes weeding out extremist voices and specious claims in favor of provable facts.

“Objectivity is all about doing your job well as a journalist,” says Ken Paulson, a former editor of USA Today who is president of the First Amendment Center, which studies free-expression issues. He also is dean of Middle Tennessee State University's College of Media and Entertainment. “The question is, can you get up every morning and write what you find out — accurately write about what you've discovered?”

Paulson and many journalists say objectivity is rooted in fairness — conveying the arguments of all sides of an issue. But, they add, fairness does not mean “he said, she said” reporting — the oft-criticized practice of unquestioningly giving both sides equal weight.

“Good journalism doesn't require perfect balance,” said Michael Kinsley, founding editor of Slate magazine. “In fact, perfect balance may be a distortion of reality. But journalism gains credibility when it gives all sides their due.”26

The American Press Institute's Rosenstiel says one means of bolstering media trust — greater transparency — is enhancing objectivity by borrowing the methods of science and demonstrating to readers and viewers how news outlets arrive at their conclusions.

The Post, in publishing an e-book biography of Trump last year, put online an archive of most of its research materials, including thousands of pages of interview transcripts, court filings, financial reports, immigration records and other material.27

“There's this discipline of verifying — making sure you have enough sources and describing as much as can about your sources, like showing your math in a school assignment that proves to the teacher that you did the work yourself,” Rosenstiel says. “That's what the idea of an objective method of journalism is about.”

Are the national news media out of touch with ordinary Americans?

Critics of mainstream journalism question whether staffers at national outlets are disconnected from people in blue-collar jobs who often live outside of the metropolises of the East or West coasts. But journalists at those outlets dispute the charge.

The debate is an old one. In a 1996 article, “Why Americans Hate the Media,” Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows said national political journalists fixate on tactical matters at the expense of issues that the public cares about more deeply.

“When ordinary citizens have a chance to pose questions to political leaders, they rarely ask about the game of politics,” Fallows wrote. “They want to know how the reality of politics will affect them — through taxes, programs, scholarship funds, wars.”28

Those tendencies have only worsened over the last two decades with the explosion of the internet and interest in polls and celebrity at the expense of more time-consuming, deeply reported pieces, media observers say. As the news business has shrunk, it has concentrated in New York, Washington and California.

The result, those observers say, helps explain the traditional media's failure to anticipate the outcome of 2016's election, in which Trump defied almost all polls and pundits to win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote.

“Much of the East Coast-based media establishment is arguably out of touch with the largely rural population that voted for Trump,” said Mathew Ingram, a Fortune senior writer covering the media.29

Dean Baquet, the Times' executive editor, said he is proud of his paper's campaign coverage. But he said after the election: “The New York-based and Washington-based media powerhouses … don't get the role of religion in people's lives.”30

Veteran reporter and author David Cay Johnston, former board president of the group Investigative Reporters and Editors, said today's journalists no longer closely share their audience's concerns.

“There's been a tendency in the news to focus very much on, ‘What's going on with the internet? What's going on with these exciting new gizmos?’ As opposed to, ‘What's happening to people who work in factories in Iowa and Michigan and their concerns?” Johnston said.

Johnston attributed the shift to changing demographics. In 1960, nearly one-third of reporters and editors had never attended a single year of college; in 2015, that figure was down to 8 percent — 38 percentage points below the number of adults 25 and older nationwide.31

College-educated journalists “began making newspapers move up the income ladder and the wealth ladder in terms of readership and lost sight of this mass audience they used to have,” he said. “And a result, the coverage and what newspapers defined as important tended to be the concerns of the upper-middle class.”32

Too many of the journalists are liberal, putting them further out of touch, says Watchdog.org's Bicknell. “If mainstream news organizations want to regain credibility with the public, they should begin by hiring young conservative journalists,” he says.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner, which has evolved from an intimate gathering in 1921 into a televised gala of hundreds of journalists and politicians — and the celebrities they invite — often is cited as symbolizing the gulf between the national media and public. The Times stopped attending the dinner in 2008, saying it sent a misleading signal that the paper was too chummy with politicians.33

Criticism of the national media's aloofness from America extends beyond economic class and politics into race.

African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley cited the Trayvon Martin case as evidence that newsrooms have “the same unconscious bias that exists in police departments” because they lack staffers who understand black America. Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American, was shot and killed in 2012 by neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a gated Florida community. Zimmerman, who is white, pleaded self-defense and was acquitted of second-degree murder.34

“The reality is that that story would never have made it to the front pages were it not for black media,” Smiley said. “Oftentimes the mainstream media — particularly where people of color are concerned — is on the late freight.”35

The bar graph shows the percentage who made the following statements about each type of media.  

Long Description

Americans tend to trust the news sources they rely on but distrust “the news media” as an abstract concept. For example, just over half of those surveyed viewed the news sources they consult as moral, but only 24 percent said that about the media in general.

Source: “‘My’ media versus ‘the’ media: Trust in news depends on which news media you mean,” American Press Institute, May 24, 2017, p. 2, https://tinyurl.com/ya32z2za

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Statement The news media is: The news media you use most often is:
Very accurate 17% 34%
Moral 24% 53%
Willing to admit mistakes 27% 47%
Protect democracy 34% 48%
Care about people they report on 22% 41%

However, a number of academics and journalists say major news outlets are responding to such criticisms.

“That is something that needs a correction, and the correction has begun,” former Post executive editor Leonard Downie, now a professor of journalism at Arizona State University, says of the accusation of being out of touch.

Downie and other media observers cite The Times' and other newspapers' detailed stories explaining the impacts of Trump's policies. That includes the White House's proposed budget, which calls for slashing or eliminating federal programs important to small communities and rural areas that backed Trump.

They also note that while the number of minorities at media outlets is still too low, it is on the rise. An American Society of News Editors survey found the minority workforce rose 5.6 percent from 2015 to 2016 among the 433 news organizations that took part in both years' surveys. Overall, minorities made up 17 percent of workers at daily print newspapers and 23 percent of employees at digital-only publications.36

Media observers are encouraged by journalists' willingness to “crowd-source” reporting — asking the public directly for help, expanding their networks and building credibility. Post reporter David Fahrenthold won a Pulitzer Prize in April for his work investigating Trump's charitable contributions, in part by soliciting information from readers about whether they belonged to organizations that had been promised or received contributions.

When looking into whether Trump used $10,000 of charitable money to buy a portrait of himself, Fahrenthold recalled, “I asked my readers and Twitter followers for help, and they amazed me with their ingenuity. They found things that I never would have thought to find on my own.”37

Times domestic-affairs correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg also cites “Anxious in America,” a 2016 series to which she contributed, as another example of reporting about everyday Americans. It explored economic and social concerns in rural Appalachia, among African-Americans at a Philadelphia food pantry and evangelical Christians in small-town Iowa as well as other places.38

While acknowledging that the national media focuses too much on polls and “horse-race” journalism, Stolberg says of her paper, “I disagree that we don't reflect America.”

Does the use of anonymous sources erode trust in journalism?

Critics of the use of anonymous sources call it a significant contributor to the erosion of trust in the media, while the practice's defenders say that — when done judiciously — it gets closer to the truth than quoting people only by name.

The use of such sources requires the public to place considerable faith in journalists, said Mary Louise Kelly, who covers intelligence agencies for NPR. “If I am using an anonymous source, I have given my word that I will not reveal their identity,” Kelly said. “But I am asking you, the listener, to trust me that I have done everything in my power to make sure this person is who they say they are, that they have access to the information and also to weigh what's their motive.”39

A Morning Consult/Politico poll in March found that 44 percent of those surveyed said it is likely reporters make up unnamed sources. As with other polls involving media trust, the poll showed a deep partisan split: 65 percent of Republicans said journalists made up sources, while just 24 percent of Democrats agreed.

The poll also showed that half of those surveyed didn't consider it appropriate for the media to use anonymous sources when reporting on government business. That issue also broke along partisan lines: 66 percent of Republicans considered it inappropriate compared to only 36 percent of Democrats.40

Trump has fed public mistrust about the practice. Reporters “have no sources; they just make them up when there are none,” he said in February.41

The Times tightened its requirements for the use of unnamed sources in 2016 in response to two erroneous articles. One was based on unnamed officials who said inspectors general asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Clinton had mishandled sensitive information on a private email account she used as secretary of State. The Times later clarified that the referral was not criminal and did not name Clinton as a focus.42

Nevertheless, when The Times this year published a string of exclusive stories about Trump, the paper drew a warning from Liz Spayd, the paper's public editor.Footnote * She noted the articles relied heavily — some entirely — on unnamed sources. “The descriptions [of sources' identities] generally tilt far more toward protecting the sources than giving readers confidence in what they said,” Spayd wrote.43

Conservative political commentator Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at the Federalist magazine, responded to a slew of critical articles about Trump in May with a sarcastic tweet: “I didn't go to journalism school, but should our media really privilege unaccountable, anonymous sources to on-the-record accountable ones?”44

However, many in the news business say mainstream media outlets do a largely successful job in drawing a distinction between unnamed sources with a partisan ax to grind and those wanting to provide helpful information without risking their jobs.

Comedian Melissa McCarthy parodies White House press secretary Sean Spicer (Getty Images/NBC/NBCU/Will Heath)  
Comedian Melissa McCarthy parodies White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Saturday Night Live” on May 13, 2017. In recent weeks, assistant press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been giving press briefings instead of Spicer, who has had a rocky relationship with the press. Spicer faced withering criticism after President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord, telling reporters he did not know whether Trump accepted climate change science. (Getty Images/NBC/NBCU/Will Heath)

Of those in the latter camp, “These are not people who pull us aside because they want to screw Donald Trump,” The Times' Baquet said. “These are people who are worried about the direction of government.”45

Reporters who make the most frequent use of anonymous sources have accumulated considerable trust with those sources, which should persuade the public to have confidence in those reporters, said Dana Priest, a Pulitzer Prize-winning national security reporter at The Post.

Those reporters “are pretty good at judging the character of somebody that they actually quote without their name,” Priest said. “And that's how we do that business. It would not happen without it, because they're really not supposed to be talking to us.”46

The use of anonymous sources declined in the half-century between 1958 and 2008, reaching its peak in the 1970s, according to a 2011 study.

The study found journalists increasingly described the backgrounds of anonymous sources in some way rather than simply identifying them as “reliable sources.” In 1958, 34 percent of stories with unnamed sources used that type of vague language, but that figure fell below 3 percent in 2008. It also found reporters more frequently explained the reasons why they grant anonymity.47

Paulson of the First Amendment Center says procedures to discourage reliance on anonymous sources — including having reporters share the names of sources with senior editors — led to a 70-percent reduction in their usage during his stint as USA Today's editor from 2004 to 2009.

Relying on unnamed sources while sustaining trust is “a balancing act,” he says. “It has to be offset by the importance of the story. We were not going to use anonymous sources to find out the name of the new Taylor Swift album — only to reveal important information about national security.”

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*While Trump defines unfavorable coverage as “fake news,” the accepted definition is fabricated stories, posted on obscure websites, intended to disparage politicians and generate ad revenue through clicks after readers share them.

*The Times announced on May 31 that it was eliminating the public editor position, and Spayd resigned. The paper has recently created the Reader Center, which it described as a way to “build even stronger bonds with our readers.”

Background

Early Press Coverage

The First Amendment's guarantee of press freedom makes the news media “the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution,” as President John F. Kennedy once observed.48 Nonetheless, journalists seldom have been held in high public regard.

Thomas Jefferson famously championed free expression: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” the author of the Declaration of Independence and the nation's third president once said. Yet he griped about how those papers covered him.

“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper,” Jefferson wrote in 1787. “Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”49

For much of the 19th century, journalists stressed sensationalism over accuracy, with papers serving as mouthpieces for political parties. “He lies like a newspaper” became a common criticism.50

“Editors ran their own candidates — in fact they ran for office themselves, and often continued in their post at the paper while holding office,” historian Garry Wills wrote. “Politicians, knowing this, cultivated their own party's papers, both the owners and the editors, shared staff with them, released news to them early or exclusively to keep them loyal, rewarded them with state or federal appointments when they won.”51

Ulysses S. Grant, the commanding Union general during the Civil War, later served two scandal-filled presidential terms. During his second inaugural address in 1873, Grant railed against reporters, saying he had been “the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political history.”52

The New York Press in 1897 coined the term “yellow journalism” to describe the fiercely competitive and sensationalistic New York newspapers owned by titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The term came from the comic strip “The Yellow Kid,” about a mischievous boy in a yellow nightshirt.53

The splashy reporting of Hearst's and Pulitzer's papers was offset by The New York Times. Tennessee publisher Adolph S. Ochs acquired the paper in 1896 and vowed “to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect or interests involved.”54

The emergence of investigative journalists — muckrakers — in the early 20th century helped boost trust. The best known was Upton Sinclair, whose 1906 novel The Jungle exposed labor and sanitary abuses in the meatpacking industry. Thirteen years later, Sinclair's The Brass Check, a work of nonfiction, compared the brass token used by patrons of prostitutes to wealthy newspaper owners' buying off journalists' credibility.55 It sold more than 150,000 copies.56

Legendary journalist Walter Lippmann helped found The New Republic magazine in 1914 and became one of the world's most widely respected columnists.57 Lippmann warned in a 1920 book that without a “steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news,” then “all that the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true.”58

During the 1920s, radio became common in American households. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill into law stipulating that stations could lose their licenses if their broadcasts were considered too controversial. It required stations to offer equal time for political candidates.59

With the advent of television after World War II, the federal government again became involved in regulating journalistic content. Lawmakers became concerned that the three TV networks of the era — NBC, ABC and CBS — could misuse their broadcast licenses to advance a biased agenda. The Federal Communications Commission issued the Fairness Doctrine in 1949 requiring radio and TV stations to devote some of their programming to controversial issues and allow the airing of opposing views.60

During the 1930s and '40s, polls showed “at best only modest levels of trust in the news media,” according to Georgetown University public policy professor Jonathan M. Ladd.61

But around midcentury, competition from television led newspapers to expand coverage and offer more deeply sourced and interpretative reporting. Papers also developed, along with magazines, a commercial model that led many of them to be hugely profitable through classified and display advertising.

It was during this period that a few newspapers, including the Milwaukee Journal and Washington Post, questioned accusations by Wisconsin GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the “Red Scare” investigations of alleged communists in the United States during the 1950s. CBS News reporter Edward R. Murrow, in a 1954 special report, said of the senator: “He didn't create this situation of fear — he merely exploited it, and rather successfully.”62

By 1956, two-thirds of Americans said in polls that newspapers were fair. Of those charging unfairness, most thought they were too favorable toward President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953–61) and other Republicans.63

Vietnam and Watergate

The Vietnam War hardened partisan attitudes toward the media. Reporters found struggles on the battlefront at odds with the upbeat assessments of military leaders, while TV news broadcast vivid combat images directly into American homes. CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, considered the country's most trusted figure, changed the public perception of the war when he declared in a 1968 commentary that the war was destined “to end in a stalemate.”64

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite (Getty Images/Bettmann)  
CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, considered the country's most trusted figure during his long tenure, helped change public perception of the Vietnam War when he declared in a 1968 commentary that it was destined “to end in a stalemate.” (Getty Images/Bettmann)

Republican Nixon (1969–74) and his first vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, often accused reporters of untrustworthiness. On Vietnam, Nixon said “our worst enemy seems to be the press,” while Agnew blasted “the tiny, enclosed fraternity of privileged men elected by no one.”65

Reed Irvine, a Republican journalist and press critic, in 1969 founded the conservative watchdog group Accuracy in Media to provide what he saw as a check against the media's liberal excesses. It grew within two decades into a 30,000-member organization with a $1.5 million annual budget, drawing praise from GOP lawmakers for its work exposing alleged biases, errors and distortion.66

Journalists played the central role in the era's other most significant controversy — the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington's Watergate office building and subsequent events that culminated in Nixon's resignation in 1974.

Relying on anonymous sources, Post reporters Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered many of the developments tying Nixon and top aides to the break-in, a cover-up and other misdeeds. A 1976 movie portrayed the pair as dogged investigators, and a Gallup poll that year showed public confidence in the media at an all-time peak of 72 percent.67

But Republican Ronald Reagan's presidency (1981–89) ushered in greater public skepticism. Some Democrats accused reporters of being reluctant to criticize him out of fear of being cut off from the flow of White House information. They also said reporters were too willing to take part in stage-managed events crafted by Reagan aides with an eye toward enhancing the president's popularity.68

In 1987, during Reagan's second term, the FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine, paving the way for talk radio.69 Rush Limbaugh, a conservative political commentator and host of a talk show in Sacramento, Calif., made perceived liberal bias one of his signature issues and saw his program become nationally syndicated in 1988 and the nation's most popular radio show.70

The Reagan era also saw competitive constraints and government regulation of cable channels relaxed by the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984. The industry boomed, as all-news “24/7” cable channels such as CNN changed the face of television journalism by reaching a wide audience and offering coverage for longer periods than the TV networks.71

Media Scandals

Cable increased pressure on print media, which in the post-Watergate era had boosted in-depth reporting. The Post's Janet Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for “Jimmy's World,” a lengthy article about an 8-year-old heroin addict that the paper retracted when she admitted the boy was fictitious.72

The Cooke controversy was followed by scandals involving other journalists found to have fabricated or embellished their work:

  • The New Republic's Stephen Glass, who wrote articles in the 1990s about young conservatives, Wall Street traders and Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs that were found to be entirely or partially false.73

  • USA Today's Jack Kelley, who wrote dispatches from Serbia and other war-torn countries in the 1990s and early 2000s that the newspaper found were substantially inaccurate. Editor Karen Jurgensen resigned in 2004 over her failure to detect the fabrications.74

  • The Times' Jayson Blair, who was found in 2003 to have copied material from other publications as well as devising fake quotations, then lying about it. The paper's two top editors subsequently stepped down.75

  • NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who was suspended without pay for six months in 2015 — and eventually lost his anchor post — following a segment in which he exaggerated details of his travels in a military helicopter during the Iraq War. The story opened a controversy involving other instances in which Williams exaggerated or invented dangers he faced.76

  • Sabrina Rubin Erdely, a journalist for Rolling Stone, the magazine and its parent company were found guilty of defamation of a former University of Virginia administrator in a 2014 magazine article about sexual assault on campus that included a debunked account of a fraternity gang rape.77

Media trust levels, as measured by Gallup, fell to just over 50 percent of Americans polled through the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. Media credibility has consistently been below 50 percent since 2007.78

Democratic President Bill Clinton was a polarizing figure, especially after his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to his impeachment and subsequent acquittal. “The Drudge Report,” a conservative news-aggregation website launched in 1994, led the charge against Clinton and other Democrats.

Other right-wing outlets that followed in its wake, such as Breitbart News, were aggressively skeptical of President Barack Obama. The outlets gave voice to the “alt-right,” a loose coalition of white nationalists, white supremacists, anti-Semites and others seeking to preserve what they consider traditional Western civilization.79

Such outlets “were preaching this is the only place you can get news — this is the only place you can trust,” said Ted Newton, president of a Washington political communications firm and an adviser to Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. “All other media outlets are lying to you [they said], so you need to come to us. And so in an attempt to capture an audience, they almost made them slaves to those news outlets.”80

Cable news discovered that many viewers were hungry for partisanship. Fox News launched in 1996 with a motto to be “fair and balanced,” combining straight news reporting with pro-Republican commentary.

Though critics labeled Fox a GOP soapbox for bigotry and propaganda, it struck a chord with viewers who believed the rest of media displayed an overly liberal tilt to become the most-watched cable channel in 2002.81 Rival cable channel MSNBC, created in 1996 as a partnership between NBC and Microsoft, sought starting in 2007 to become Fox's liberal counterweight.82

Critics of the Iraq War blasted Fox and the rest of the media for not more aggressively investigating GOP President George W. Bush's justification of the 2003 invasion — that Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical or other so-called weapons of mass destruction. One Times reporter, Judith Miller, came under criticism for writing articles giving credence to Iraqi and U.S. officials who made that claim.83

Some journalists said deep public support for Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks influenced how aggressively they challenged his claims.

In the run-up to the war, “There wasn't any reporting in the rest of the press corps, there was stenography,” recalled John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, which published some of the most skeptical coverage about the decision to invade. “The administration would make an assertion, people would make an assertion, people would write it down as if it were true, and put it in the newspaper or on television.”84

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter and other social-media sites further lessened the need for Americans to rely on newspapers, TV or other news outlets. Facebook's algorithms assessed what people clicked on and then fed them similar content, a development that many experts say further lessened trust in mainstream outlets.

Politicians began recognizing the power of social media in appealing directly to a mass audience. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee, inveighed against “the lamestream media.”85

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)  
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, whose website has attracted millions of dollars' worth of ads away from local newspaper classified advertising, has joined several private and nonprofit groups and media organizations in supporting projects aimed at developing faith in the media. “As a news consumer, like most folks, I want news we can trust,” Newmark said. “That means standing up for trustworthy news media and learning how to spot clickbait and deceptive news.” (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

At the same time, media watchdog groups formed across the ideological spectrum. On the political right, hedge fund executive Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebecca gave $13.5 million between 2008 and 2014 to the Media Research Center, whose projects include a website (CNSNews.com) that publishes stories it says the mainstream media overlooks.86 On the left, liberal business magnate George Soros gave at least $1 million to Media Matters for America, which also has obtained funding from or formed partnerships with several groups that Soros funds or has funded.87

In the 2016 presidential race, traditional media came under attack from all sides. Hillary Clinton's campaign castigated journalists for lavishing too much uncritical attention on Trump, whose colorful candidacy drew far more coverage than any of his Republican primary rivals.88 Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's main primary opponent, accused the media of not taking him seriously and undermining his campaign.89

Neither Trump nor Sanders, however, made media criticism as central to their races as Trump. Three months before the election, Trump named Steve Bannon, a founding member of the board of Breitbart, as head of his campaign. He later tapped the controversial Bannon as his chief strategist in the White House.

Trump made, and continues to make, near-daily use of Twitter as a weapon to bypass and attack traditional media.90 House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a Trump supporter, said the president's deployment of Twitter is “like owning newspapers.”91

Facebook came under heavy criticism during the campaign for tailoring stories in users' online feeds to what those users had previously read. That included a substantial amount of fake news, which made the network “a sewer of misinformation,” according to Joshua Benton, director of Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab.92

As polls showed trust in the media plummeting, news organizations and outside groups ramped up efforts to rebuild it.

One effort was the Reynolds Institute's Trusting News project, launched in January 2016 to look at how news outlets could rebuild trust through social media. The project found successful social-media posts shared several traits: They were about familiar topics that people were inclined to interact with; they gave people something specific to react to; and they used informal language to be relatable.93

A participant, the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, developed a video for Facebook and its website in which local African-Americans and law enforcement officials met to discuss Black Lives Matter.94 The project “was a new way for us to see the importance of having a conversation with the readers and being transparent,” says Ann Elise Taylor, the paper's news editor.

The Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo., used a hit-and-run bicycle accident as a way to explain how — contrary to some readers' beliefs — journalists regret having to cover bad news. The Facebook post generated more than 3,500 link clicks — far more than expected.95

The Cincinnati television station WCPO-TV also took part, using Facebook to explain its commitment to covering child poverty while acknowledging the challenges in exploring the topic because it cannot show children's faces or use their voices on camera.96

“With the state of media and the way people think about media, it's crazy not to get involved with a project like this to win their trust,” says Mike Canan, WCPO.com's editor.

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Current Situation

Trump and the Media

The early months of Trump's presidency have been marked by aggressive news coverage — led by The Times and Post — about whether Russia's government worked behind the scenes to help his campaign and influence his new administration.

A Quinnipiac University poll in early May indicates the media covering Trump may have gained some ground in winning the public's confidence. But it also showed skepticism of journalists remains entrenched.

When asked whom people trusted more to tell the truth about important issues, 31 percent picked Trump and 57 percent cited the media, a rise of 5 percentage points from mid-February, when the president denounced the media as “the enemy of the American people” in a tweet.97

Rachel Maddow, host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC (Getty Images/MSNBC/NBCU/Heidi Gutman)  
Rachel Maddow, host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, is celebrated by liberals — and reviled by conservatives — for her partisan commentary. In today's highly polarized political and media climate, 62 percent of Americans say the media favor one political party over the other, compared with 50 percent in past years. (Getty Images/MSNBC/NBCU/Heidi Gutman)

However, the poll also showed that voters disapproved, 58 percent to 37 percent, of the way the media cover the president.98

Such a split in attitudes reflects the harm inflicted from Trump's attacks, says Bill Adair, a former Tampa Bay Times reporter and founder of the fact-checking site PolitiFact who is now a professor of journalism at Duke University.

“Clearly there's been a hunger for accurate, objective news lately — that's been encouraging,” Adair says. “But Trump has said some incredibly damaging things about the media.”

Both The New York Times and Post have seen financial gains that media analysts say reflect increased trust.99

Barton Swaim, a conservative Post columnist, said he expected the mainstream media to aggressively cover Trump's presidency after being demonized during the election. “Even so, the sheer visceral animosity from the media, together with the aggressively insurgent opposition by [Democratic] holdovers from within the government, has shocked me as much as the election itself,” Swaim said.100

Media scholars and journalists say Trump tacitly understands traditional media's importance. They note that when the initial attempt to overturn Obama's Affordable Care Act could not win enough GOP supporters to be brought up for a House vote in March, the first reporters Trump notified were not from a conservative outlet, but The Times and Post. 101

Commentators at Fox News, like other GOP-leaning outlets, have remained supportive of Trump, devoting less airtime to the ongoing investigation's into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia than other outlets. Fox's opinion-givers and other conservatives have echoed the president in arguing that the leaking of classified information to the media is far more serious than speculation of any administration wrongdoing.102

William Kristol, a conservative pundit and former Fox commentator, criticized the conservative media, particularly Fox News, for “rationalizing everything” Trump does.103

The nonprofit investigative website ProPublica, founded in 2008, recently has expanded on its collaborations with other outlets, pairing with The Times and The Associated Press in March to rapidly collect White House staffers' financial-disclosure forms.104 ProPublica opened a bureau in Chicago this spring, its first outside Washington and New York.105

In the Midwest, Cleveland's Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com launched the reporting collaboration “Ohio Matters,” which has sent reporters to six rural, suburban and urban parts of the crucial swing state to hear concerns. Trump carried Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2016, far above most polls' earlier projections.106

To try to show its commitment to watchdog journalism, The Post in February put the motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness” below its front-page nameplate. The move led the conservative Washington Times to launch its own slogan — “Real News for Real Americans.”107

Trust-Related Projects

Several private and nonprofit groups have joined media organizations on projects aimed at developing trust.

A global coalition of technology leaders, academic institutions and others announced a $14 million undertaking in April, The News Integrity Initiative, to combat declining trust in media and advance news literacy. Supporters include Craig Newmark, founder of the online classified-ad site Craigslist, which, ironically, has severely crippled newspapers' classified revenues.

“As a news consumer, like most folks, I want news we can trust,” Newmark said. “That means standing up for trustworthy news media and learning how to spot clickbait and deceptive news.”108

The program will be administered by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. It will focus in part on helping readers better spot fake news and frivolous “clickbait” disguised as news articles.109

The philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network, the brainchild of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, in April launched a $100 million project over the next three years aimed at restoring trust in the media and other institutions globally. The funding will focus on strengthening independent media and investigative journalism, tackling misinformation and hate speech, and enabling citizens to better engage with government.110

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)  
Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, launched a $100 million global project in April aimed at restoring trust in the media and other institutions. The focus will be on strengthening independent media and investigative journalism, confronting misinformation and hate speech and enabling citizens to better engage with government. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)

The Reynolds Institute recently wrapped up the second phase of its “Trusting News” project with 30 media outlets around the country. That phase — which will conclude with a report this fall — invited local readers and viewers to describe how news outlets can win their confidence, Mayer says.

In Cincinnati, WCPO.com's invitation for readers to take part drew 463 responses in less than a day — a sign Canan says people care about the issue.

“One of the biggest takeaways is, there's a lot of guilt by association,” he says. “As I delved into conversations with people, they said, ‘I don't trust the media,’ but it was really, ‘I don't when comes to politics.’ Or they don't trust the national media.”

Canan says he has started collaborating with the Cincinnati Enquirer, a journalistic competitor, on ways to build trust. Peter Bhatia, the newspaper's editor and vice president for audience development, said he and other editors have been trying to “demystify our process” by explaining how the newsroom operates in talks to tea party as well as progressive groups and when publishing investigative projects or deeply reported work.

Transparency “becomes more of an imperative as we work hard to restore trust lost in the last election cycle, regardless of how fair the charges against us may be,” Bhatia said.111

The Standard-Examiner's Taylor, who also took part in the Reynolds Institute project, agrees on the need for increased transparency. She says a surprising number of readers do not make the distinction between news and commentary, with separate staffs handling each as at most outlets.

“That's knowledge a lot of journalists take for granted,” she says. “One thing I'd like to address in being more transparent is explain what is an editorial, what is an opinion piece, how do they differ from a news story and how are all these things connected? That would be a valuable tool people could use as they consume news for the rest of their lives.”

Facebook and Google

The twin colossi of the information world are trying to bolster confidence in the media in the face of criticism that they have enabled the spread of fake news and profited from sharing journalism content without paying its producers for it.

Facebook has put out new tools to stem the spread of fake news. If users click on a news story, they now have the option of reporting it as being false. If enough users flag such stories, Facebook will send the article to a fact-checking organization such as Snopes.com or PolitiFact — and if those outlets agree, the article will appear on Facebook with a red banner that says “Disputed by third-party fact checkers” and include a link to the explanation.

In addition, Facebook has promised to employ software to help identify fake news stories and has its engineers working on finding websites that impersonate actual news sites.112

Founder Mark Zuckerberg published a manifesto in February outlining how the social-media giant can contribute to restoring trust in news and information. One of his aims is to encourage the growth of local news and improve the range of business models on which news organizations rely.113

Google's News Lab, launched in 2015, seeks to connect journalists with programs, data and other resources to use in their reporting. It started the First Draft coalition to create standards and best practices for verifying eyewitness media content and combating fake news. The coalition expanded last year to include 80 partners, including Facebook and Twitter, and is working with universities and other organizations around the world.114

Critics of Google's and Facebook's efforts, however, say their continued dependence on incorporating news articles in their content compels them to do far more to help the media regain trust.

Steven Waldman, founder of LifePosts.com, where people share personal stories online, said Facebook and Google should devote 1 percent of their profits for five years to create a $4.4 billion permanent endowment to transform local journalism.

“These companies are among the biggest beneficiaries of the digital disruption that has, among other things, caused the crisis in American journalism,” Waldman said. “It's time for the disrupters to solve the problems.”115

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Outlook

Unpleasant Truths

With political polarization deeply rooted in society, journalism scholars and those in the news media predict mistrust of journalists will continue — the question is to what degree.

“The media will never be all that popular; it's in the business of telling unpleasant truths,” says Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., who directs its Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

The American Press Institute's Rosenstiel says trust levels “are going to continue to slip, because we're in a more polarized world, and I don't see a solution to that on the horizon.” Part of the problem, he adds, is the inability of the Democratic and Republican parties to produce leaders who are considered trustworthy to a broad bipartisan audience.

“It's ironic that when he left office, Barack Obama had much higher approval ratings than Trump or any politician has now,” he says. “I think there's a sort of nostalgia — we can, in retrospect, appreciate people, but when we're on the field of battle, we retreat to our team.”

More conservatives need to have their voices heard in traditional media, said former Wisconsin right-wing talk-radio host Charlie Sykes. If that does not happen, he said, those conservatives will continue putting their faith in outlets that mirror their preconceived views.

“You can do the best reporting in the world, but unless you can find a way to restore that credibility … it won't even register,” said Sykes, now a contributing New York Times columnist.116

Benton, of Harvard's Nieman Lab, is particularly interested in seeing whether online outlets such as BuzzFeed and Mic that have marketed themselves to younger, urban readers will start courting conservative readers.

“Do they double down on identity-driven stories embracing the values of diversity and multiculturalism?” he asked. “Or — at a time when many are under their own revenue strains … do any of them see a market opportunity in the Trump voter?”117

Finding ways to finance quality journalism at larger-scale mainstream outlets will be critical, says Arizona State's Downie, the former Post editor.

“I'm pleased to see that audiences are beginning to find ways to pay more for digital subscriptions to the Times, support events produced by other news organizations and increase membership in public radio,” he says. “Foundations are stepping up and philanthropists are stepping up. But whether that's sufficient five or 10 years from now, I can't say.”

The Reynolds Institute's Mayer, who leads the Trusting News project, predicts a split between news organizations catering to polarization and those willing to earn more trust. Of the latter group, she expects an increased effort to listen more closely to readers.

“There's no room in journalism any more for people who don't see customer service and understanding the audience as part of the job,” she says. “People in journalism have to have an entrepreneurial mindset and a customer-service mindset with a focus on, ‘Here's what we do.’”

Duke University's Adair, the PolitiFact creator, estimates that if trust levels do pick up, it will take 10 or 15 years. The media “will do better at labeling types of articles and being more transparent,” he says. “There's likely to be a renewed effort to invest in news literacy so that people, particularly young people, have a better understanding of the news ecosystem.”

Until then, said Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, a former Times public editor, young people going into journalism must accept being mistrusted.

“You have to understand there's a mission attached to our job and that we need to do it well,” Sullivan told a student audience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “and put on our big-boy and big-girl pants and not worry that we're under attack — because it's going to continue.”118

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Pro/Con

Should journalists try to be objective?

Pro

Thomas Kent
President and CEO, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Former Standards Editor, The Associated Press. Written for CQ Researcher, June 2017

Not every journalist needs to be objective. But if sources of objective journalism disappear, society will suffer a tragic loss.

Some claim it's impossible for journalists to be objective; no one, they say, can report the news without a shade of personal opinion.

This might be true if a journalist's job were simply to provide one version of reality. That would open the way for journalists to impose their views on others. But the real goal of objectivity isn't so much about controlling the information available as about making sure readers get all the facts and interpretations they need to make up their own minds.

Smart journalists draw these facts and interpretations not only from their own investigations but also from reporting and reasonable opinions on social networks — making a well-done objective news story deeply democratic, reflecting input from many places. Objectivity demands only that journalists keep their personal views out of their stories. Personal opinions should be saved for opinion columns, where people expect writers to advocate for their points of view.

Critics sometimes claim objective journalism is a robotic, mindless craft of simply writing down what everyone says. It is nothing of the sort. So-called fake news and fantasy narratives have no place in an objective news article. Some things happened; others didn't. A newsmaker spoke in one context; to put his or her words in another is a lie. Journalists remain responsible for the truth of what they publish.

Some critics also accuse objective journalists of scrubbing humanity and emotion out of stories in a bid to avoid any opinion. But objectivity doesn't mean rejection of human feeling. The slaying of children by a gunman at a school can be fairly referred to as horrific; there is no need for a paragraph saying “on the other hand.” A photographer covering a war or disaster can put aside his camera when he has a chance to save a life.

The world will be far poorer if journalism is allowed to become nothing but a stream of opinion pieces, which by their nature shortchange some points of view in order to advance the author's argument.

Society must have a place where thoughtful readers without the time to do extensive personal research can find fair, accurate accounts of events as well as a variety of responsible opinion to put them into context. Objective journalism fills this need.

Con

Bruce Thornton
Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; Professor of Classics and Humanities, Fresno State University. Written for CQ Researcher, June 2017

So-called objective journalism is another progressive idea based on scientism, the notion that human behavior and action can be as predictable and reliable as science. In earlier times, media reported obvious facts, but the political interpretation of those facts reflected what James Madison called the “passions and interests” of the competing political factions in a diverse country. The numerous newspapers across the country reflected this diversity, which is why they often had the word “Democrat” or “Republican” in their titles.

After World War II, journalism was professionalized and training happened in “J schools” at liberal universities, which biased much reporting toward liberal and urban sensibilities. The advent of television reduced the number of newspapers that once provided diversity, allowing the liberal interpretation to dominate far beyond the media centers in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In the 1960s journalism became an activist and advocacy business. Coverage of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal interpreted events from a partisan and left-wing perspective that saw U.S. intervention as neocolonial adventurism and President Richard Nixon as a budding tyrant out to destroy the Constitution. As a consequence, South Vietnam was abandoned to the communist North, and Nixon was forced to resign, paving the way for Jimmy Carter's disastrous foreign policy of retreat and appeasement.

The repeal of the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine in 1987 was followed by the advent of talk radio, which began to erode the monopoly of the big-three television networks and dominant newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Then came cable news with shows like Fox News, and the internet. Now thousands of outlets reflect the diversity of opinion that the First Amendment was written to protect. Where once maybe 50 opinion makers dominated political discourse, now there are hundreds of thousands. Their impact became clear when in 2004 CBS icon Dan Rather was brought down by internet sleuths for reporting “fake news” about George W. Bush's National Guard service.

Today we've returned to a true “marketplace of ideas” in which diverse political perspectives can compete, and ideological biases pretending to be “objective” can be exposed within hours. Once more it is up to the citizens to be informed and use their critical judgment rather than taking on faith the reporting of a handful of media outlets. If they misuse that freedom, that's the price always to be paid when people are free.

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Chronology

 
1900s–1950sNewspapers draw competition from radio, television.
1919Celebrated muckraker Upton Sinclair, known for attacking his era's social and economic institutions, publishes The Brass Check, a nonfiction book equating the brass tokens that brothel patrons used to buy prostitutes' services with the money that newspaper owners paid journalists to influence their reporting.
1949Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issues “Fairness Doctrine” requiring radio and TV stations to devote some programming to controversial issues and the airing of opposing views.
1954CBS News correspondent Edward R. Murrow wins praise for commentary highly critical of Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy's “Red Scare” investigation of suspected communists in the United States.
1956Two-thirds of Americans say in polls that newspapers are fair, more than twice the percentage as those who consider them unfair.
1960s–1980sPartisan attitudes harden toward media.
1968CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite helps turn public opinion against the Vietnam War by predicting it will end in a stalemate…. Republican Richard M. Nixon is elected president and attacks the media's credibility.
1969Conservative media critic Reed Irvine starts Accuracy in Media to provide what he calls a check against liberal media excesses.
1972After a break-in at Democratic National Committee offices at Washington's Watergate complex, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein write numerous articles tying Nixon and his aides to the break-in, a subsequent cover-up and other misdeeds, all leading to Nixon's resignation.
1976Gallup Poll shows public confidence in the media at an all-time peak of 72 percent.
1980Republican Ronald Reagan is elected president, serving two terms during which his aides sought to aggressively shape media coverage through staged events and other means…. Business tycoon Ted Turner launches CNN, the first TV channel providing 24-hour news coverage.
1981 Washington Post reporter Janet Cook wins Pulitzer Prize for “Jimmy's World,” an article about an 8-year-old heroin addict that is later exposed as a fabrication.
1987FCC abolishes “Fairness Doctrine,” paving the way for talk radio to become a platform for conservatives and others to regularly attack perceived media bias.
1990s–PresentInternet reshapes public's perception of the media.
1994Matt Drudge, an unknown political commentator, starts the news-aggregation website Drudge Report, among the first of a number of conservative-leaning media outlets.
1996Fox News launched; within six years it is the most-watched cable network.
2003Critics of the Iraq War bash news outlets, saying they didn't aggressively challenge President George W. Bush's assertions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
2004Facebook social network launched; it quickly becomes a massively popular alternative to news outlets by taking their content and tailoring it to users' preferences.
2008Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee, lambastes what she calls “the lamestream media.”
2016During the presidential campaign, conservatives accuse mainstream media of under-covering Hillary Clinton's perceived misdeeds and Democrats accuse them of over-covering Donald Trump's rallies in order to boost ratings and online traffic. Some Democrats also accuse Fox News of pro-Trump bias.
2017President Trump calls the media “the enemy of the American people” amid constant clashes with reporters.
  

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Short Features

Fact-checking sites perform “very important journalism.”

In the media-trust debate, two phrases have become part of the lexicon: “Pants on Fire” and “Pinocchios.” The colorful expressions are used, respectively, on the fact-checking websites PolitiFact and Fact Checker, which evaluate the truth of government officials' statements. The sites' popularity has both irked their targets and raised questions about how the administrators of the sites choose which statements to parse.

The two sites are far from alone. U.S. news outlets had 52 separate fact-checking operations in 2016, up by 15 from 2015.1 The biggest is PolitiFact (www.politifact.com), launched by the Tampa Bay Times in 2007, which won a Pulitzer Prize two years later and now has affiliations with news outlets in 18 states, public radio and the Scripps chain of television stations.Footnote * 2

The Washington Post also started its fact-checking site, Fact Checker (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/), in 2007. Another well-known site, FactCheck.org, was launched in 2003 by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.3 On the political right, the website Conservapedia (www.conservapedia.com) — a conservative version of the online dictionary Wikipedia — aims to debunk what it considers overly liberal claims.4

At PolitiFact, claims are rated — as shown on an accompanying “Truth-O-Meter” — on a scale from “True” to “Pants on Fire,” while Fact Checker assesses the degree of truth of a statement on a scale of zero to four “Pinocchios.”

A Fact Checker column on May 18 assigned three Pinocchios to the assertion by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that 7 million veterans would definitely lose tax credits under the House Republicans' bill to repeal former President Obama's health-care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act. “In reality, it's not so certain,” Fact Checker said.5

On May 12 PolitiFact gave a “Pants on Fire” rating to President Trump's assertion that allegations that his campaign may have colluded with Russia was a “made-up story” that Democrats used as an excuse for his victory. “Democrats did not create the story, nor do they control the agenda of the House and Senate committees, which are conducting their own investigations,” the column declared.6

The online fact-checking site PolitiFact has made “Pants on Fire” part of the media-trust lexicon (Screenshot/CQ Researcher Staff)  
The online fact-checking site PolitiFact has made “Pants on Fire” part of the media-trust lexicon. Fact Checker, with its “Pinocchio” rating, is another popular site that evaluates the truth of government officials' statements. (Screenshot/CQ Researcher Staff)

Fact-checking has evolved beyond its origins in the 1990s, when news outlets occasionally assessed claims in campaign advertisements, journalism scholars say. Today, TV networks such as CNN also do on-screen fact-checking during debates.

“It is very important journalism, and it's here to stay,” says former Post executive editor Leonard Downie, now a professor of journalism at Arizona State University. (As a young deputy metropolitan editor of The Post, Downie supervised much of the paper's Watergate coverage by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.)

A Pew Research Center survey last fall found 83 percent of voters consider it the media's responsibility to check the statements of candidates and campaigns. And 77 percent of those who said they planned to vote for Trump saw it as either a major or minor responsibility, compared with 89 percent of Hillary Clinton's supporters.7

Politicians have noticed. In a 2015 interview, then-Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, — now U.S. Energy secretary — said his state had reduced nitrogen-oxide emissions levels by 63.5 percent. Then he added, “Say 63 percent — that way, we won't get PolitiFacted.” (The actual figure was 62.5 percent, the site noted.)8

But conservatives have criticized such sites because, they say, no public mechanism exists to show which assertions are fact-checked and which aren't, opening the selection process to bias. “When you're only advocating a political agenda, like PolitiFact, I understand, guys, where you're coming from,” Fox News commentator Sean Hannity said in 2015 while disputing a “Pants on Fire” rating for an earlier assertion about Syrian refugees.9

In a 2016 study, political scientists Stephen Farnsworth of the University of Mary Washington and Robert Lichter of George Mason University examined hundreds of PolitiFact and Fact Checker evaluations and found that PolitiFact's selections were more critical of Republicans than Democrats “to a statistically significant degree.” Fact Checker also was more critical of GOP politicians, they found, but not to as significant a degree.

Farnsworth and Lichter said the sites should better explain how they choose claims to evaluate. “The lack of transparency from the organizations regarding their selection procedures, and the practical difficulties of content analyzing every controversial statement by every lawmaker, make it difficult to untangle the central question of whether partisan differences in fact-checking reflect the values of the fact-checkers or the behavior of their targets,” they said.10

PolitiFact creator Bill Adair, now a journalism professor at Duke University who remains a contributing editor at the site, says PolitiFact vigorously tries to avoid bias by examining the most significant or newsworthy statements, regardless of political affiliation.

The Fact Checker's Glenn Kessler responded to complaints about Trump getting more fact-checks in 2016 than Clinton by saying the GOP nominee talked more. “We would have liked to publish a lot more fact-checks of Hillary than we did, but she didn't give many interviews, her speeches were rigidly vetted and didn't vary that much,” Kessler said. “Meanwhile, Trump would call in to four to five TV shows and go off the script in rallies.”11

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, a nonpartisan media-research organization, encourages fact-checking that goes beyond cataloguing assertions. “We've heard fact-checking is more effective if it's viewed as ‘Help me understand this issue’ rather than just right and wrong,” Rosenstiel says. “The idea we have is, let's fact-check a broader issue rather than a specific claim. You would pick issues based on how important they are. Like transportation — what are the key facts? Or water — how clean is the water?”

Several efforts are underway to incorporate new technologies into fact-checking and to present the results in various formats. Studies show that charts and other graphical information can make information stick better in readers' minds, Adair says.

“We need to develop different ways of presenting accurate information,” he says.

— Chuck McCutcheon

[1] Bill Adair, “Keep on Fact-Checking!” The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/l9kwxqj.

[2] Mark Stencel, “The facts about fact-checking across America,” ReportersLab.org, Aug. 3, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/ya6fqb4n.

[3] Brooks Jackson, “Is This a Great Job or What?” FactCheck.org, Dec. 5, 2003, http://tinyurl.com/ya4w9btx; Glenn Kessler, “About the Fact Checker,” The Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/ybsf4v9t; The PolitiFact Staff, PolitiFact.com, http://tinyurl.com/yck9q3pw.

[4]Conservapedia.com,” undated, http://tinyurl.com/2ppol7.

[5] Michele Ye Hee Lee, “Nancy Pelosi's claim that ‘seven million veterans will lose their tax credit’ under the GOP health bill,” The Washington Post Fact Checker, May 18, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ybqrlm2z.

[6] Jon Greenberg, “Donald Trump's Pants on Fire claim Russia story ‘made-up’ by Democrats,” PolitiFact.com, May 12, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/yaktmejd.

[7] Michael Barthel, Jeffrey Gottfried and Kristine Lu, “Trump, Clinton Supporters Differ on How Media Should Cover Controversial Statements,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 17, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/ybhyyf3f.

[8] W. Gardner Selby, “Rick Perry gets a laugh out of Texas Truth-O-Meter,” PolitiFact Texas, Jan. 15, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/y7stbhgj.

[9] Alex Griswold, “Hannity Blasts ‘Left-Wing Website’ Politifact For Giving Him ‘Pants on Fire’ Rating,'” Mediaite, Oct. 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/oncqu6g.

[10] Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter, “A Comparative Analysis of the Partisan Targets of Media Fact-checking: Examining President Obama and the 113th Congress,” paper presented at the American Political Science Association convention, September 2016, http://tinyurl.com/yabwrdx2.

[11] Alexios Mantzarlis, “Fact-checking under President Trump,” Poynter.org, Nov. 10, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jmbg4sn.

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Reporters are “stretched thinner. That hurts trust.”

Journalists are having a tough time building trust, in part because there are fewer of them and those who remain are stretched thin.

Declining circulation and falling advertising revenue have led to dramatic downsizing at print, broadcast and digital outfits. Newspapers, for instance, shed more than 24,000 reporting and editing jobs — a 37 percent drop — between 2004 and 2015, the latest year for which figures exist.12 And the remaining reporters must not only gather the news and write stories but also shoot videos and constantly update their stories in real time using Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

“As newsrooms shrink, there's less time to do stories and they're doing shorter, more incomplete stories,” says Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, a nonpartisan media research group in Arlington, Va. “As a consumer, you say, ‘This is paper is thinner,’” he says, while journalists are having to “write a tweet and do a video [so] they're stretched thinner. That hurts trust. You don't have as much time to do everything.”

Facing plummeting ad income, Gannett Co., the country's largest newspaper chain and owner of USA Today and more than 100 other dailies, reduced its workforce about 2 percent last October.13 The company also cut staff at its Tennessee and New Jersey papers this year, but has refused to publicize recent cuts, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. 14 BH Media Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate headed by Nebraska investor Warren Buffett, announced in April it was cutting 289 jobs at its 31 dailies and nearly 50 weeklies.15

And the future economic climate for newspapers could get even worse, said Nicco Mele, former Los Angeles Times senior vice president. “If the next three years look like the last three years,” he predicted in 2016, “somewhere between a third to a half” of the 50 largest metropolitan papers in the country could go out of business. Mele is now director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.16

Staff cuts have decimated coverage of state legislative news. Between 2005 and 2014, investigative and in-depth reporting on state government declined 30 percent at six major papers, according to a 2016 study by a George Washington University graduate student.17

Downsizing local and state government coverage means greater secrecy — and potentially increased corruption — because fewer media outlets are holding state and local institutions accountable, several watchdog groups have warned. “The traditional media, particularly newspapers, have always led the open-government charges if the school board is closing a meeting illegally or the city is denying records or a judge is kicking a reporter out,” said Jeffrey Hunt, a media lawyer in Salt Lake City. He sees the media “leaving the field in terms of fighting these battles.”18

Not all of the economic news is bad — especially for the big media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and cable network MSNBC that have devoted substantial resources to the unfolding controversy over Russia's alleged involvement in the U.S. presidential election and ties to President Trump's administration.

In January The Post generated more new subscriptions than in any other month, beating what had been a record-setting November.19 The paper has hired hundreds of reporters and editors since Amazon's Jeff Bezos bought the paper a few years ago, and Jed Hartman, chief revenue officer, predicted that 2017 would be its third year of double-digit revenue growth.20 And during the first three months of this year The Times added 308,000 net digital-only news subscriptions — more than in any quarter in its history.21 First-quarter revenues increased 5.1 percent over the first quarter of 2016, and circulation revenues jumped 11.2 percent.22

Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., said the two papers are benefiting from a jump in the number of serious news consumers because of Trump. Those people “are appreciating the media more than they did last year at this time,” says Fransworth, who directs Mary Washington's Center for Leadership and Media Studies.23

Despite those numbers, The Times in late May announced a round of newsroom buyouts aimed primarily at editors. The paper also announced it was abolishing the “public editor,” or ombudsman, position held by Liz Spayd. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger said the paper would create a “Reader Center” to interact with the public.24

Meanwhile, the left-leaning MSNBC was the second-most-watched cable network during prime time during the week of May 15 — behind TNT, which carried several NBA playoff games. MSNBC's weekday prime-time shows averaged 2.44 million, eclipsing Fox News' 2.40 million for the first time ever.25 Fox has devoted less coverage to the Russia controversy, and its commentary has been solidly pro-Trump. Some industry analysts wonder if its approach will hurt both its credibility and financial situation.26

Numerous advertisers backed away from Fox after commentator Bill O'Reilly was forced out in April amid allegations of sexual harassment and popular Fox commentator Sean Hannity had to apologize for advancing a discredited rumor that a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer was targeted for death by Hillary Clinton and liberal philanthropist George Soros.27

No one in the industry, however, has an easy solution for how news organizations can boost revenues while maintaining trust. Some foundations are financing investigative reporting, and some wealthy donors are providing millions of dollars to fight fake news and support in-depth reporting.

Another experiment is emulating the Netherlands' De Correspondent (The Correspondent), which recently announced a U.S. prototype. The online news site is funded by 56,000 members, who each pay about $63 a year for work done by its 21 full-time staff and 75 freelancers. The site aims to do in-depth, unique articles without competing against other media for breaking news, said Jay Rosen, a New York University professor of journalism who is helping with the U.S. version's launch.28

At journalism conferences, Rosen wrote, he has heard “a very good question: What if news organizations optimized every part of the operation for trust? Not for speed, traffic, profits, headlines or prizes … but for trust. What would that even look like? My answer: It would look a lot like De Correspondent.29

— Chuck McCutcheon

[12] “Newspapers Fact Sheet,” Pew Research Center, p. 8, June 1, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yb8g77ht.

[13] Philana A. Patterson, “Gannett to reduce workforce by about 2% to help manage costs,” USA Today, Oct. 24, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/yaknjj3y.

[14] Steve Cavendish, “Gannett Slashes Staffs at Tennessee Papers,” Nashville Scene, March 28, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ydff4nfa; Benjamin Mullin, “Layoffs hit North Jersey Media Group, again,” Poynter.org, http://tinyurl.com/h8erxqr. Also see David Uberti, “Gannett newspapers are hiding an important local story,” Columbia Journalism Review, May 5, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y97jnu7w.

[15] Paul Fletcher, “Berkshire Hathaway's Media Group Cuts 289 Newspaper Jobs Nationwide,” Forbes, April 4, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ybwl52l3.

[16] “Nicco Mele — In Search of a Business Model: The Future of Journalism in an Age of Social Media and Dramatic Declines in Print Revenue,” Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Policy, Harvard University, Feb. 18, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/ya3qes95.

[17] Lauren A. Dickinson, “The Strength of State Government Reporting: How In-Depth News and Investigative Coverage by Six U.S. Newspapers Fared from 2005 Through 2014,” master of arts thesis, George Washington University, May 15, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/yb6ajwsl.

[18] Miranda S. Spivack, “Public contracts shrouded in secrecy,” “Reveal” (Center for Investigative Reporting), Nov. 16, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/y9jvtrue.

[19] Ken Doctor, “Trump Bump Grows Into Subscription Surge — and Not Just for the New York Times,” TheStreet.com , March 3, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y7hu29ff.

[20] James B. Stewart, “Washington Post, Breaking News, Is Also Breaking New Ground,” The New York Times, May 19, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y8cs94x2.

[21] Sydney Ember, “New York Times Co. Reports Rising Digital Profit as Print Advertising Falls,” The New York Times, May 3, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/m72ezr5.

[22] “The New York Times Company Reports 2017 First-Quarter Results,” Business Wire, May 3, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y8mr6d8b.

[23] Natalia Wojcik, “Trump has been ‘rocket fuel’ for NYT digital subscriptions, CEO says,” CNBC.com, May 3, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/kyp6y46.

[24] Tali Arbel, “Among the job cuts at The New York Times, the public editor,” Boston.com (The Associated Press), May 31, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y88zmdz8.

[25] James Hibberd, “MSNBC weekly ratings beat Fox News, CNN for first time ever,” Entertainment Weekly.com , May 22, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/m2sntup.

[26] Stephen Battaglio, “Trump-Russia story is a threat to Fox News' ratings dominance,” Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y9l5msgq.

[27] Simon Dumenco, “Is the Sean Hannity Advertiser Revolt Bill O'Reilly All Over Again?” Advertising Age, May 25, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ybpayo4k.

[28] Jay Rosen, “Jay Rosen: This is what a news organization built on reader trust looks like,” NiemanLab, March 28, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ktkmpgb.

[29] Ibid.

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Bibliography

Books

Anderson, C.W., Leonard Downie and Michael Schudson , The News Media: What Everyone Needs to Know , Oxford University Press, 2016. A media culture professor at the College of Staten Island (Anderson), a former Washington Post executive editor (Downie) and a Columbia University journalism professor (Schudson) explain the economic, technological and societal forces that have helped erode trust in journalism.

Carlson, Matt , Journalistic Authority: Legitimating News in the Digital Era , Columbia University Press, 2017. A St. Louis University communications professor examines the cultural, structural and technological factors that prompt readers to accept or reject a journalist's version of events.

Graves, Lucas , Deciding What's True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism , Columbia University Press, 2016. A University of Wisconsin professor of journalism and mass communication chronicles the evolution of fact-checking websites and their importance in assessing assertions by government officials.

Stone, Roger , The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution , Skyhorse Publishing, 2017. A political adviser and friend of Donald Trump details how Trump's strategy of castigating mainstream news outlets helped him win the presidency.

Articles

“The Case Against the Media. By the Media,” New York, July 25, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/zm2sn6g. The weekly magazine interviews dozens of print, broadcast and online journalists about what they see as their profession's biggest flaws.

Benton, Joshua , “The forces that drove this election's media failure are likely to get worse,” NiemanLab, Nov. 9, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/nrccvms. The director of Harvard University's media-research center says the problems that led the media to be blindsided by Trump's victory must be corrected.

Rosenstiel, Tom , “What the post-Trump debate over journalism gets wrong,” Brookings Institution, Dec. 20, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/h6pgke5. A senior fellow at the centrist think tank and executive director of the American Press Institute says journalists must embrace new methods to earn trust, such as making documents and other reporting research available for readers to see firsthand.

Shafer, Jack , “How Trump Took Over the Media By Fighting It,” Politico Magazine, Nov. 5, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/jqnhfwn. The political website's media writer says Donald Trump went far beyond any other presidential candidate in condemning reporters.

Thornton, Bruce , “We Citizens Have to Guard the Media ‘Guardians,’” Frontpage Mag, Sept. 2, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/n86nge5. A fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution says negative coverage of Trump's presidential campaign reflects the mainstream media's longtime bias against Republicans.

Toffel, Richard J. , “The Country Doesn't Trust Us — But They Do Believe Us,” NiemanLab, Dec. 12, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/n2vjyzy. The president of the investigative website ProPublica highlights the importance of trust in an essay accompanying interviews with several dozen journalists, academics and others predicting future media trends.

Umansky, Eric , “How We're Learning To Do Journalism Differently in the Age of Trump,” ProPublica, May 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/mk2lvhe. ProPublica, a nonprofit online news organization, says it will cover the Trump administration by digging deeper, collaborating, being transparent and being comfortable with uncertainty.

Reports and Studies

“State of the News Media 2016,” Pew Research Center, June 15, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/zh7vqdj. The nonprofit research group says the economic pressures facing the news media intensified in 2015, with average weekday newspaper circulation seeing its biggest drop since 2010.

“Trusting News,” Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, February 2017, https://tinyurl.com/kbsgehl. A research project of the University of Missouri's journalism think tank says news outlets can employ Facebook and other social media to effectively build trust with audiences.

“‘Who Shared It?’: How Americans decide what news to trust on social media,” American Press Institute, March 20, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/leh49n7. A collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that when Americans read news on social media, how much they trust the content is determined less by who creates the news than by who shares it.

Swift, Art , “Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low,” Gallup, Sept. 14, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/hda5s4u. The polling company finds trust in the media at its lowest level since Gallup began asking the question in 1972.

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The Next Step

Alternative-Media Outlets

Benkler, Yochai, et al., “Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 3, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7vga6be. A study of more than 1 million online news stories shows how the Breitbart News site used social media “to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world” during the 2016 election, influencing how other media covered the election.

Chang, Alvin , “We tracked the Trump scandals on right-wing news sites. Here's how they covered it,” Vox, May 18, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/k9xr5hh. According to Vox, a news and opinion website founded by former Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, Breitbart and Fox News covered the firing of FBI Director James Comey very differently than The New York Times, primarily by removing context and blaming the “liberal” media for spreading false information to take down President Trump.

Manjoo, Farhad , “How Twitter Is Being Gamed to Feed Misinformation,” The New York Times, May 31, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yb82rr5f. Fake news, misinformation and propaganda are shared so often on Twitter that mainstream journalists feel compelled to cover the stories to explain what is true and false.

Plunkett, Chuck , “In so many ways, users of social media improve our journalism,” The Denver Post, March 26, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/kk3trtf. Although social media can spread misinformation, says an editorial writer, it also can benefit journalism by allowing citizens to shine a spotlight on stories that are not being covered and enabling journalists to quickly solicit information from readers with knowledge about a topic or a different perspective.

Future of Local News

Ali, Chrisopher, and Damian Radcliffe , “Life at small-market newspapers: A survey of over 400 journalists,” Columbia Journalism Review, May 10, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y87n5hq9. An online survey found that journalists working at newspapers with circulations under 50,000 are surprisingly upbeat about their future and eager to take on new challenges, despite a standard 50-hour work week, low pay and the threat of layoffs.

Edge, Sami , “Demystifying Media: What's the Future of Local Newspapers?” MediaShift, March 31, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/lvfameu. An assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and a professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication discuss the challenges and opportunities facing newspapers with circulations under 50,000.

Griggs, Tim , “Hands across America: How to make local/ national journalism collaborations work,” NiemanLab, May 4, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7krhxdb. The former publisher of The Texas Tribune, a digital-first, nonprofit news organization, looks at how national and local media operations can benefit from collaborating more with each other.

Heintz, Paul , “Can a Retired Judge Save Southern Vermont's Newspapers?” Seven Days, March 29, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9e7vo9y. A Vermont weekly says a small group of investors, led by retired Judge Frederic Rutberg, is trying to reinvigorate local daily newspapers in northern Massachusetts and southern Vermont.

Lee, Deron , “The pleasure and pain of going nonprofit,” Columbia Journalism Review, May 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycqezepz. By becoming nonprofits, some local news websites have increased readership, expanded their staffs and seen their donations exceed the revenue they generated as for-profit papers. However, local sites are still having problems expanding and obtaining funding.

Uberti, David , “Gannett and the last great local hope,” Columbia Journalism Review, spring 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7x9udoc. A media analyst says Gannett's national reach can help the company's 109 local newspapers do more with less, but he notes that the push to share content online may make it harder for those papers to retain their local flavor.

Warren, James , “New York Times editor: Local news is the biggest ‘crisis’ in journalism,” Poynter, May 31, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yaw9wj7z. New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet discusses why it is important to sustain and invigorate local and regional journalism.

Trump Effect

Ingram, Mathew , “Trump's Victory Has People Signing up For News Like It's Going Out of Style,” Fortune, March 7, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/z9yvyzy. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and other publications have seen increased subscriptions or donations this year, thanks to a renewed interest in public service journalism apparently linked to the election of Donald Trump.

Scutari, Mike , “We Knew Trump Was Good For Nonprofit Journalism, But This Is Getting Ridiculous,” Inside Philanthropy, April 17, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ya2dloh8. Donations and grants to nonprofit journalism organizations have risen sharply since Donald Trump was elected president.

Schreckinger, Ben, and Hadas Gold , “Trump's fake war on the fake news,” Politico Magazine, May/June 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yb6q7wgt. Although the president has used alarming rhetoric to denigrate the press, the relationship between the White House and news outlets is much more complex than the one of deep hostility that the public perceives.

Swaim, Barton , “We're not learning from the Trump story — because we've peeked at the last page,” The Washington Post, May 18, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ybsvlp29. The writer says journalists covering the Trump administration must be aware of how their own expectations of a Trump presidency could affect their work.

Trust in the Media

Baker, Mitchell , “Restoring the Public's Trust in American Journalism,” The Atlantic, May 11, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y77zmhwo. The internet has helped make politicians more accountable and the public more informed, but it also has aided the spread of fake news, eroding trust in democratic institutions.

Barthel, Michael, and Amy Mitchell , “Americans' Attitudes About the News Media Deeply Divided Along Partisan Lines,” Pew Research Center, May 10, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/lwhqwt2. Republicans and Democrats disagree more than ever about the media's watchdog role, with many Democrats saying the media's criticism helps keep political leaders in line and many Republicans saying such criticism keeps leaders from doing their jobs.

Blake, Aaron , “Trump's media coverage has been 4-to-1 negative — but that isn't really the point,” The Washington Post, May 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8qetsvn. The Washington Post's political analysis blog says a study showing that President Trump received strongly negative news coverage during his first 100 days doesn't mean the media is out to get him.

Mullin, Benjamin , “Can trust in the news be repaired? Facebook, Craig Newmark, Mozilla and others are spending $14 million to try,” Poynter, April 3, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/nyfkvh4. Working with the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, the newly launched News Integrity Initiative — funded by organizations such as Facebook, Mozilla and the Ford Initiative — is seeking to help the public and news organizations deal with mistrust and misinformation.

Pogue, David , “What Facebook Is Doing to Combat Fake News,” Scientific American, Feb. 1, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/h26du9a. Facebook is taking steps to stop the spread of fake news and is giving users tools to help in the fight.

Shafer, Jack, and Tucker Doherty , “The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think,” Politico Magazine, May/June 2017, https://tinyurl.com/mhs2emm. The decline of print journalism and the rise of online media have redistributed journalists, putting most of them in extremely liberal areas of the country where their reporting reflects their readers' political views.

Stanley, Timothy , “Trump is right about media bias,” CNN, April 30, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/khw5axb. A historian and columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph says reporters are just as guided by their personal biases and “tribal passions” as are most Americans, and journalists in the age of Donald Trump increasingly see themselves as participants in a resistance movement.

Sullivan, Margaret , “Omidyar network gives $100 million to boost journalism and fight hate speech,” The Washington Post, April 4, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ycpnpdn6. A nonprofit foundation and investment firm created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is donating $100 million to organizations such as The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Anti-Defamation League and the Latin American Alliance for Civic Technology to help fight fake news, corruption, hate and mistrust.

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Contacts

Accuracy in Media
4350 East West Highway, Suite 555, Bethesda, MD 20814
202-364-4401
www.aim.org
Conservative media watchdog organization that searches for potential liberal bias in news reporting.

American Press Institute
401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22203
571-366-1200
www.americanpressinstitute.org
A nonprofit group that researches journalism trends.

American Society of News Editors
209 Reynolds Journalism Institute, Missouri School of Journalism, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211
573-884-2430
www.asne.org
Promotes ethical journalism, supports First Amendment rights and defends freedom of information and open government.

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
124 W. 30th St., Suite 201, New York, NY 10001
212-633-6700
www.fair.org
Liberal media watchdog organization that monitors bias and censorship in news reporting.

Media Matters for America
P.O. Box 52155, Washington, DC 20091
202-756-4100
www.mediamatters.org
Liberal media watchdog group that looks for potential conservative bias in news reporting.

Media Research Center
325 S. Patrick St., Alexandria, VA 22314
703-683-9733
www.mrc.org
Conservative media watchdog group that searches for potential liberal bias in news reporting.

Nieman Journalism Lab
Harvard University, 1 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-2237
www.niemanlab.org
Analyzes the news media's future in the internet age.

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
1615 L St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036
202-419-4300
www.people-press.org
Nonpartisan media research organization funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Poynter Institute for Media Studies
801 Third St. South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
727-821-9494
www.poynter.org
Journalism education and research organization and owner of the Tampa Bay Times; ethics section of its website includes articles, discussions, tips and case studies.

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Footnotes

[1] Jennifer Calfas, “Read the Advice Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein Gave at the White House Correspondents' Dinner,” Time, April 30, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/n7qvosk.

[2] Mark Landler, “Trump Savages News Media at Rally to Mark His 100th Day,” The New York Times, April 29, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ycvcq7u9.

[3] See Chuck McCutcheon, “Populism and Political Parties,” CQ Researcher, Sept. 9, 2016, pp. 721–744.

[4] Benjamin Mullin, “‘I want to see us take journalism to people where they are’: A Q-&-A with Jeff Jarvis about restoring trust in journalism,” Poynter.org, April 3, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y6uugszv.

[5] Art Swift, “Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low,” Gallup, Sept. 14, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/hda5s4u.

[6] “Honesty/ethics in professions,” Gallup, Dec. 7-11, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/lcer8a.

[7] Art Swift, “Six in 10 in US See Partisan Bias in News Media,” Gallup, April 5, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/metlvk6.

[8] “How trust can be broken, and the decline of confidence in the press,” American Press Institute, April 17, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yadwe7or.

[9] “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is … Post-Truth,” Oxford Dictionaries.com, Dec. 12, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/kdgknmd.

[10] “Meet The Press 01/22/17,” NBC News, Jan. 22, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7fuxnjy.

[11] Shane Goldmacher, “How Trump gets his fake news,” Politico, May 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/kwlt3yl.

[12] Michael Barthel and Amy Mitchell, “Americans' Attitudes About the News Media Deeply Divided Along Partisan Lines,” Pew Research Center, May 10, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ydgclyxx.

[13] Laura Nichols, “Poll: Majority Find Major Media Outlets Credible,” Morning Consult, Dec. 7, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ya59mcra.

[14] Paul Farhi, “Reporters say they are being roughed up. Observers point to Trump,” The Washington Post, May 26, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycfzvlbj.

[15] “Windows shattered at Herald-Leader building; suspected bullet damage found,” Lexington Herald-Leader (Ky.), May 29, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycp3c2ds.

[16] “Marvin Kalb on Current Challenges to the Freedom of the Press,” National Press Club Journalism Institute speech, YouTube.com, posted April 1, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ycxubgdd.

[17] Andrew Collins, “Meet Watchdog editor John Bicknell: journalist, author, history buff,” Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, Nov. 3, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y9pwrkyd.

[18] Paul Farhi, “Dear readers: Please stop calling us ‘the media.’ There is no such thing,” The Washington Post, Sept. 23, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y9v84hfb.

[19] Mathew Ingram, “Glenn Greenwald vs. the NYT's Bill Keller on objectivity and the future of journalism,” Gigaom, Oct. 28, 2013, https://tinyurl.com/yd76vw7v.

[20] Margaret Sullivan, “How one reporter's rejection of objectivity got him fired,” The Washington Post, Feb. 1, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7e98afx.

[21] Lewis Wallace, “Objectivity is dead, and I'm okay with it,” Medium.com, Jan. 27, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8k56rtw.

[22] Adam Ragusea, “Glenn Greenwald on the ‘adversarial force’ of a free press,” Current, March 29, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/y8zokx8h.

[23] “Objectivity: What Is It Good For?” WNYC-FM's “On the Media” transcript, Feb. 3, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ybg5hlbe.

[24] Bruce Thornton, “We Citizens Have to Guard the Media ‘Guardians,’” FrontPageMag, Sept. 2, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ya368tpe.

[25] Jonah Goldberg, “The Press Is Not the Enemy,” National Review, Feb. 24, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yaox2yj7.

[26] Michael Kinsley, “Is It Possible There Is Nothing Nice to Say?” The New York Times, May 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ybrufzqw.

[27] “‘Trump Revealed’: The reporting archive,” The Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/h9g6rgg.

[28] James Fallows, “Why Americans Hate the Media,” The Atlantic, February 1996, https://tinyurl.com/y8y9h3st.

[29] Mathew Ingram, “Here's Why the Media Failed to Predict a Donald Trump Victory,” Fortune, Nov. 9, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/z8db88p.

[30] “‘New York Times’ Executive Editor On The New Terrain Of Covering Trump,” “Fresh Air,” NPR, Dec. 8, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/jdo6pxg.

[31] Andrew McGill, “U.S. Media's Real Elitism Problem,” The Atlantic, Nov. 19, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y9jd3fu6.

[32] Carrie Sheffield, “WATCH: Journalism used to fight for the working man, now it's a bastion of ‘trust fund kids,’” Salon.com , March 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yd8esfe3.

[33] “History of the WHCA,” White House Correspondents' Association, https://tinyurl.com/csdr45h; Jim Romenesko, “Why NYT doesn't attend White House Correspondents' Association Dinner,” Poynter.org, May 4, 2011, https://tinyurl.com/yawpvrp9.

[34] See Peter Katel, “Racial Conflict,” CQ Researcher, Jan. 8, 2016, pp. 25–48.

[35] Nick Tabor, “PBS?'s Tavis Smiley on What's Wrong (and Right) With the Media,” New York, July 24, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yabdclp3.

[36] Shan Wang, “U.S. newsrooms seem to be getting a little more diverse. But minority journalists are still, well, a minority,” NiemanLab.org, Sept. 9, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/zqkx9zg.

[37] “The President and the Press: The First Amendment in the First 100 Days,” Newseum.org event transcript, April 12, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8yn3o4w.

[38] “Anxious in America,” The New York Times, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y8dx7ucp.

[39] “Why The Media Use Anonymous Sources,” “Morning Edition,” NPR, Dec. 16, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/hs9a4v4.

[40] Eli Yokley, “Voters Skeptical of Anonymous Sourcing, but Still Trust Political Reporting,” Morning Consult, March 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7m6dryj; “Morning Consult National Tracking Poll #170301,” Morning Consult, March 2-6, 2017, p. 265, https://tinyurl.com/ycvdgy5h.

[41] Tara Golshan, “Full transcript: President Trump's CPAC speech,” Vox.com , Feb. 24, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ybescrr8.

[42] “Following Multiple Debacles, NY Times Is ‘Cracking Down On The Use Of Anonymous Sources,’” Media Matters for America, March 15, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yamapyfc.

[43] Liz Spayd, “The Risk of Unnamed Sources? Unconvinced Readers,” The New York Times, Feb. 18, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yb2wmu3r.

[44] Mollie Hemingway, tweet, May 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9z4rmgv.

[45] Jill Disis, “New York Times editor: Why journalists need to use anonymous sources,” CNN.com, Feb. 26, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycuvz6hd.

[46] “Why The Media Use Anonymous Sources,” op. cit.

[47] Steve Myers, “Study: Use of anonymous sources peaked in 1970s, dropped by 2008,” Poynter.org, Aug. 9, 2011, https://tinyurl.com/y98utmk9. The study was by Matt J. Duffy, a professor of international media law at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, and Ann E. Williams, a professor of communication at Georgia State University.

[48] “John F. Kennedy Speeches/The President and the Press: Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961,” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, https://tinyurl.com/zuxwmen.

[49] Lindsey Bever, “Memo to Donald Trump: Thomas Jefferson invented hating the media,” The Washington Post, Feb. 18, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ybh5hqro; Daniel Lattier, “Thomas Jefferson Had Some Issues With Newspapers,” Intellectual Takeout, Aug. 28, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y76v92bt.

[50] Ryan Holiday, “Abraham Lincoln as Media Manipulator-in-Chief: The 150 Year History of Corrupt Press,” The Observer, Nov. 5, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/ycq45rf6.

[51] Garry Wills, “How Lincoln Played the Press,” New York Review of Books, Nov. 6, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/yaoc27mz.

[52] “Second Inaugural Address of Ulysses S. Grant,” Yale University Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library, https://tinyurl.com/yb9okf5b.

[53] “Yellow journalism,” New World Encyclopedia, https://tinyurl.com/yagthwpu.

[54] “Our History,” New York Times Company, https://tinyurl.com/y7hxev7j; “Without Fear or Favor,” The New York Times, Aug. 19, 1996, https://tinyurl.com/ybtored9.

[55] Upton Sinclair, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism (1919), https://tinyurl.com/y7zsf7um.

[56] “Upton Sinclair,” https://tinyurl.com/yc2574cl.

[57] “Walter Lippmann,” Encyclopaedia Brittanica, https://tinyurl.com/y93ffgw5.

[58] Walter Lippmann, Liberty and the News (1920), p. 11.

[59] Stuart N. Brotman, “Revisiting the broadcast public interest standard in communications law and regulation,” Brookings Institution, March 23, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/kpugnbz.

[60] Dan Fletcher, “A Brief History of the Fairness Doctrine,” Time, Feb. 20, 2009, https://tinyurl.com/yawejko8.

[61] Jonathan M. Ladd, Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters (2013), p. 62, http://tinyurl.com/mljy8vp.

[62] “Joseph R. McCarthy,” History.com, https://tinyurl.com/o724hco; David Mindich, “For journalists covering Trump, a Murrow moment,” Columbia Journalism Review, July 15, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/ybhfryk4.

[63] Ladd, op. cit.

[64] “Final Words: Cronkite's Vietnam Commentary,” NPR, July 18, 2009, https://tinyurl.com/3wncqv3.

[65] Chester Pach, “Public Learned Less After Media Was Blamed for Failure in Vietnam,” The New York Times, April 29, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/ycult2yx; Christopher Cimaglio, “‘A Tiny and Closed Fraternity of Privileged Men’: The Nixon-Agnew Antimedia Campaign and the Liberal Roots of the U.S. Conservative ‘Liberal Media’ Critique,” International Journal of Communication 10 (2016), https://tinyurl.com/y86wosuv.

[66] “The Retromingent Vigilantes Revel,” Accuracy in Media Report, October 1989, https://tinyurl.com/y8h26snb.

[67] Swift, “Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low,” op. cit.

[68] Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency (1988).

[69] Fletcher, op. cit.

[70] “Rush Limbaugh,” Biography.com, https://tinyurl.com/ce2e5qh.

[71] Michael I. Meyerson, “The Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984: A Balancing Act on the Coaxial Wires,” Georgia Law Review 19, Spring 1985, https://tinyurl.com/y8kfytwm.

[72] Mike Sager, “The fabulist who changed journalism,” Columbia Journalism Review, Spring 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y7rmfgnh.

[73] Michael Hiltzik, “Stephen Glass is still retracting his fabricated stories — 18 years later,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/yb3ryk6r.

[74] Jacques Steinberg, “Editor of USA Today Resigns; Cites Failure Over Fabrications,” The New York Times, April 21, 2004, https://tinyurl.com/y8gdzx53.

[75] Isabella Kwai, “Why he did it: Jayson Blair opens up about his plagiarism and fabrication at the New York Times,” ReportersLab.org, April 12, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y8msdlel.

[76] Paul Farhi, “At long last, Brian Williams is back — humbled and demoted to MSNBC,” The Washington Post, Sept. 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/y7gnkb6c.

[77] T. Rees Shapiro, “Jury finds reporter, Rolling Stone responsible for defaming U-Va. dean with gang rape story,” The Washington Post, Nov. 4, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/ybhzols8.

[78] Swift, op. cit.

[79] See Marcia Clemmitt, “‘Alt-Right’ Movement,” CQ Researcher, March 17, 2017, pp. 241–264.

[80] Oliver Darcy, “Donald Trump broke the conservative media,” Business Insider, Aug. 26, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/j8qprjf.

[81] “Roger Ailes Looks Back on 15 Years of Fox News,” The Associated Press, FoxNews.com, Oct. 5, 2011, https://tinyurl.com/y9anos9o.

[82] Alex Weprin, “A Brief History Of MSNBC.com And NBCNews.com,” AdWeek, July 16, 2012, https://tinyurl.com/ydz8jpqz.

[83] Erik Wemple, “Judith Miller tries, and ultimately fails, to defend her flawed Iraq reporting,” The Washington Post, April 9, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y8occ74s.

[84] Max Follmer, “The Reporting Team That Got Iraq Right,” The Huffington Post, May 25, 2011, https://tinyurl.com/yo99zz.

[85] Andy Barr, “Palin trashes ‘lamestream media,’” Politico, Nov. 18, 2009, https://tinyurl.com/yc9g7ok7.

[86] Matea Gold, “The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a populist power base was funded and built,” The Washington Post, March 17, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/m8gctl3.

[87] Keach Hagey, “Soros gives $1 million to Media Matters,” Politico, Oct. 20, 2010, https://tinyurl.com/29da5l3.

[88] Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish, “$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump,” The New York Times, March 15, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/z9jkzcn.

[89] Nicole Fisher, “Sanders' Supporters: Why Some Won't Back Clinton,” Forbes, Aug. 17, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y7kt698g.

[90] Robert Draper, “Trump vs. Congress: Now What?” The New York Times Magazine, March 26, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/mxl7vvv.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Joshua Benton, “The forces that drove this election's media failure are likely to get worse,” NiemanLab, Nov. 9, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/nrccvms.

[93] “Trusting News,” Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, February 2017, https://tinyurl.com/kbsgehl.

[94] “VIDEO: Discussing race and policing in Northern Utah,” Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah), July 27, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ybpdzlqd.

[95] “Newsrooms Partners: The Coloradoan,” Trusting News website, undated, http://tinyurl.com/ycyyjwxu/.

[96] “WCPO — 9 On Your Side,” Facebook post, Sept. 23, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/yb926w5u.

[97] Michael M. Grynbaum, “Trump Calls the News Media the ‘Enemy of the American People,’” The New York Times, Feb. 17, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/js4uyw5.

[98] “May 10, 2017 — U.S. Voters Send Trump Approval To Near Record Low; Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; No Winner In Media War, But Voters Trust Media More,” Quinnipiac University, May 10, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/kebfbpv.

[99] Sydney Ember, “New York Times Co. Reports Rising Digital Profit as Print Advertising Falls,” The New York Times, May 3, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/m72ezr5.

[100] Barton Swaim, We're not learning from the Trump story — because we've peeked at the last page,” The Washington Post, May 18, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9pj3tbv.

[101] Jackie Strause, “After ‘Fake News’ Claims, Trump's First Calls After Health-Care Defeat Were to N.Y. Times, Washington Post,” Hollywood Reporter, March 24, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/kxenhcp.

[102] Maxwell Tani, “Here's how Fox News responded to reports Trump leaked classified information to Russian officials,” Business Insider, May 16, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycbbmkor.

[103] Aidan McLaughlin, “Bill Kristol: Most of Fox News Has Become ‘Ridiculous,’” Mediaite, May 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/mb87gr4.

[104] Eric Umansky, “How We're Learning To Do Journalism Differently in the Age of Trump,” ProPublica, May 8, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/mk2lvhe.

[105] Jackie Spinner, “Q&A: Louise Kiernan says ProPublica Illinois will ‘find areas where we can have impact,’” Columbia Journalism Review, March 6, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ybj3zgbh.

[106] “Ohio Matters: Redesigning Political Coverage in Ohio,” Cleveland.com , http://tinyurl.com/mvecskx; “Ohio: Trump vs. Clinton,” Real ClearPolitics.com , http://tinyurl.com/y923vh3u

[107] Rachel Stoltzfoos, “The Washington Times Adopts A New Slogan For Trump Era,” The Daily Caller, March 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8etm5nq.

[108] Benjamin Mullin, “Can trust in the news be repaired? Facebook, Craig Newmark, Mozilla and others are spending $14 million to try,” Poynter.org, April 3, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/nyfkvh4.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Margaret Sullivan, “Omidyar network gives $100 million to boost journalism and fight hate speech,” The Washington Post, April 4, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9a84mes.

[111] Peter Bhatia, “To Restore Trust, Enhance Transparency,” Nieman Reports, Feb. 15, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yb8jh224.

[112] David Pogue, “What Facebook Is Doing to Combat Fake News,” Scientific American, Feb. 1, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/h26du9a.

[113] Mark Zuckerberg, “Building Global Community,” Facebook, Feb. 16, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/myq4nkf.

[114] Steve Grove, “The Google News Lab in 2016, and where we're headed,” Medium.com , Dec. 6, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/y747x5bt.

[115] Steven Waldman, “What Facebook Owes to Journalism,” The New York Times, Feb. 21, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y9kjtyf2.

[116] Cadence Bambenek, “Recap: Trust, Truth and the Future of Journalism,” Center for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, April 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ycdxnwxf.

[117] Benton, op. cit.

[118] “Truth, Trust & the Future of Journalism: Keynote Conversation with Margaret Sullivan,” Center for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, YouTube video, posted April 5, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8dpw97y.

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About the Author

Chuck McCutcheon, author of this week's edition of CQ Researcher  

Chuck McCutcheon is a former assistant managing editor of CQ Researcher. He has been a reporter and editor for Congressional Quarterly and Newhouse News Service and is co-author of the 2012 and 2014 editions of The Almanac of American Politics and Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs and Washington Handshakes: Decoding the Jargon, Slang and Bluster of American Political Speech. He also has written books on climate change and nuclear waste.

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Document APA Citation
McCutcheon, C. (2017, June 9). Trust in media. CQ researcher, 27, 481-508. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
Document ID: cqresrre2017060900
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2017060900
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Journalism, Newspapers, and the Media
Jun. 09, 2017  Trust in Media
May 30, 2014  Digital Journalism
May 03, 2013  Media Bias
Apr. 26, 2013  Free Speech at Risk
Apr. 12, 2013  Combat Journalism
Nov. 2010  Press Freedom
Oct. 08, 2010  Journalism Standards in the Internet Age
Feb. 05, 2010  Press Freedom
Mar. 27, 2009  Future of Journalism Updated
Jun. 09, 2006  Blog Explosion Updated
Jan. 20, 2006  Future of Newspapers
Apr. 08, 2005  Free-Press Disputes
Oct. 15, 2004  Media Bias
Oct. 10, 2003  Media Ownership Updated
Dec. 25, 1998  Journalism Under Fire
Jun. 05, 1998  Student Journalism
Sep. 20, 1996  Civic Journalism
Sep. 23, 1994  Courts and the Media
Aug. 24, 1990  Hard Times at the Nation's Newspapers
Jan. 19, 1990  Finding Truth in the Age of ‘Infotainment’
Aug. 18, 1989  Libel Law: Finding the Right Balance
Jun. 06, 1986  Magazine Trends
Oct. 12, 1984  News Media and Presidential Campaigns
Jul. 15, 1983  State of American Newspapers
Oct. 23, 1981  High Cost of Libel
Dec. 23, 1977  Media Reforms
Mar. 11, 1977  News Media Ownership
Jun. 21, 1974  Access to the Media
Dec. 20, 1972  Newsmen's Rights
Aug. 16, 1972  Blacks in the News Media
Dec. 15, 1971  Magazine Industry Shake-Out
Jul. 18, 1969  Competing Media
Sep. 02, 1964  Politicians and the Press
Dec. 04, 1963  Libel Suits and Press Freedom
Jan. 09, 1963  Newspaper Mergers
Dec. 20, 1961  Reading Boom: Books and Magazines
Dec. 02, 1959  Privileged Communications
Apr. 25, 1956  Newsprint Deficit
May 06, 1953  Government and the Press
Sep. 21, 1948  Press and State
Sep. 05, 1947  Newsprint Supply
Mar. 26, 1947  Facsimile Newspapers
Dec. 10, 1945  World Press Freedom
May 01, 1940  New Experiments in Newspaper-Making
Nov. 04, 1933  Press Freedom Under the Recovery Program
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Campaigns and Elections
Campaigns and Elections
Conservatism and Liberalism
Consumer Behavior
General Social Trends
Internet and Social Media
Journalism and the News
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Print Media
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