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Mistrust of the media can have harmful effects on the nation

November 12, 2014 1 comment

Most Americans don’t trust news media.

In a 2014 Gallup poll, only 40 percent of those polled expressed a “Great deal/fair amount” of trust in news media, tying 2012 for an all-time low.

In an article in the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza points out the problem with this: “The natural result of that loss of faith in the news media is for people to seek out more partisan sources of information which they can ‘trust’ because the information being put out by those sites jibes with their particular point of view.”

Cillizza refers specifically to online news, which is certainly important in the age of blogs “reporting” news with a distinct bias, but this trend can even be seen in more traditional forms of media, like television news.

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A study by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that Fox News is the most trusted source of news on television among 25 percent of all Americans and 53 percent of Republicans.

The problem with people seeking only news that matches their current opinions is obvious: if citizens can’t see controversial issues from more than one side, discussion will replaced by arguing and no progress will be made.

Many reasons exist for this distrust of media. One key factor, though, is the number of inaccuracies reported in an industry that is becoming more focused on getting the story first than on getting it right.

When many stories are broken on Twitter or Facebook long before an established news outlet, it’s understandable that the media would want to publish something quickly and make corrections later—especially because it is easy  to correct information online.

But no matter what direction social media takes news media as a whole, it’s important for national discourse that Americans believe they can turn to news organizations for accurate, unbiased information, even if it challenges their own views.

So take the time to get it right.

-By Preston Thiemann

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