By Nick Kopinga
To the shock and astonishment of absolutely no one, the public’s view of the media’s accuracy, fairness and independence is at an all-time low. A report issued today by Pew Research shared some pretty sobering statistics about how we view the news media and suggests that the once staid institution of journalism may be destined for a more one-dimensional role: that of a “watchdog.” Before we bark up this tree, let’s look at some the key findings from the report:
- Two-thirds of respondents (68%) say that news reports are often inaccurate
- 76% say that news organizations favor one side
- 75% say that news organizations are influenced by powerful people and organizations
- Television is the public’s top source for news at 69%, while newspapers represented a meager 28%. This is down sharply from 45% in 2001
- 28% say journalists contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being, down from 38% in 2009
Depressed yet? Take heart! “There is a bright spot among these otherwise gloomy ratings,” says the report. I’ll let the Pew folks explain further while I go pour myself a stiff drink:
“In the wake of revelations about government activities, including the NSA surveillance program and the IRS targeting of political groups, nearly seven-in-ten (68%) say press criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things that should not be done, while just 21% say press criticism keeps leaders from doing their job. Support for the media’s watchdog role has risen 10 points since 2011”
Okay, I’m back, slightly intoxicated, and in no way heartened by this news. While the watchdog role has long been a cornerstone of journalism, it’s emergence as the role is a slippery slope.
Why? Let’s look at some of those prior stats, particularly the ones that chide the media for being inaccurate (68%), politically biased (76%) and swayed by power brokers (75%). In an already polarized political landscape, the “keep ‘em honest” ethic threatens to weaken journalism’s relationship with accuracy and push it further to the to the right or left, essentially eliminating the middle ground that reporting was founded upon.
I’m not arguing that the watchdog role is irrelevant. It’s actually essential to democracy. My assertion is that it must be undertaken from a position of objectivity. If the criticism comes through though the lens of a political agenda, you don’t have a watchdog; you have an attack dog.
Thu, August 8, 2013
by Nick Kopinga filed under