“We got the bubble headed bleached blonde; Comes on at five. She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye. It’s interesting when people die; Give us dirty laundry.” — Don Henley, Dirty Laundry, 1982
Big Government is broken.
The decline of legacy media – newspapers, magazines, television and radio – has been well documented.
The corresponding rise of digital native media – social media, blogs, news aggregators – has also been covered to death, including by Almost DailyBrett.
What is gaining increased traction is the loss of trust in Big Media – major newspaper mastheads (i.e., New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal), Big Three networks, cable news – as evidenced by the latest Gallup survey of 1,025 results, hailing from all 50 states with a 95 percent confidence level with a scientifically valid margin-of-error of plus or minus 4 percent.
The Gallup results are stunning: Only four-out-of-every 10 Americans have a great deal or fair trust and confidence in the media to report the news fully, fairly and accurately. Translated six-out-of-every 10 Americans have expressed a vote of no-confidence in the media.
In 1998 just 17 years ago, 55 percent had a great-to-fair confidence in the media. Today that number is down to 40 percent … well outside of the margin of error. Yes, the decline is precipitous and real.
Among younger Americans (18-49), the trust and confidence level in media is only 36 percent. There also exists a major gap between Democrats, whose trust fell to a 14-year low of 54 percent. Only 32 percent of Republicans express great-to-fair confidence in Big Media.
Gallup pointed to the former NBC anchor Brian Williams caper in which the celebrated anchor embellished on his experiences including being hit while covering the Iraq invasion in 2003 as the canary in the mine as it applies to the media’s loss of confidence.
Not mentioned by Gallup was the totally fabricated and subsequently retracted “A Rape on Campus” by Rolling Stone.
The Gallup results effectively validate the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, which reported a continued decline in trust in media from 53 percent in 2014 to 51 percent in 2015. The eye-raising result was how 72 percent of Millennials gravitate first and foremost to search engines for breaking news and information.
And you wonder why Time Magazine is suffering from anorexia? And what happened to Newsweek, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News? Which traditional media outlet will be the next to bite the dust?
The media, which celebrates throwing digital, broadcast and printed rocks at the high and mighty, is under assault. What is the answer?
Maybe Big Media needs help from the “Dark Side”? Yes, Big Media needs better public relations … pronto.
An Adversary In Need of An Adversary?
Reporters leaving the profession to enter the growing ranks of public relations pros (flacks if you prefer) have quickly been labeled as joining the “dark side.” The premise is one is saying goodbye to objectivity and selling her or his soul to become an advocate. This transition was a career defining choice for the author of Almost DailyBrett.
Despite the animosity, media needs public relations pros for news and information. In turn, the PR pros need media – whether it be legacy or digital native – to get out their messages to stakeholders. In effect, they are friendly adversaries.
Now it seems that Big Media needs PR counsel … yes from those very same flacks and spin doctors newspapers, broadcast, news aggregators, bloggers etc. so despise.
Quite simply, Big Media has an unprecedented crisis of public confidence. Big Media relishes in setting the agenda for how we are supposed to think and what we are supposed to think about. Doesn’t this assumption of this precious responsibility strike you as being a tad … arrogant?
And what about the notion of media elites and how they are there for you … always for you? Brian Williams was on the front lines … even when he wasn’t. Dan Rather wore traditional Afghani robes and became Gunga Dan. He was also part of the celebrated caper involving forged documents, exposed by bloggers, purporting that President George W. Bush received favorable National Guard treatment in 1972. Both Brian and Dan permanently lost their anchors chairs at NBC and CBS respectively.
There is also the issue of the media elites learning to the left with the notable exceptions of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. They piously declare the obvious is not true, even though the massive evidence points the other way. Do you really think it was a wise idea to donate $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation fair-and-balanced George Stephanopoulos of ABC News? And let’s not forget the $600,000 per year paid by NBC News to Chelsea Clinton for four reports.
Let’s face it: It will be a long-and-hard fight for Big Media to restore the trust and confidence of the American people.
Maybe the answer lies with the word, objectivity. How about a systematic effort backed by actual level-playing-field reporting – not just sanctimonious pronouncements of being fair and balanced – that begins the multi-year effort to prove that Big Media gets it when it comes to its obvious perception problems? The Economist continues to thrive namely because it is intelligent and equally offends those on both the left and right.
Most of all how about a little humility? Do you think that is possible, particularly those that occupy the Big Anchor positions in God’s Time Zone (e.g., EDT)?