Summary: Campaign 2016 and the advent of Trump have brought the crisis in journalism to the front pages. Fake news, conflicts with the president, calls for advocacy journalism, loss of the public’s trust — together these are forcing journalists to reconsider the craft and their business. Failure to find solutions will mean a new information regime for America.
- Watch journalists burn the news media.
- Do we trust journalists or Trump?
- Do we trust journalists?
- Jay Rosen explains the news.
- For More Information.
See journalist in Lois Lane in 1972…
(1) Watch journalists burn the news media to the ground
Their business relies on the public’s trust. I feel sad watching them burn their business to the ground. Their long decay has accelerated since the election of Trump.
“16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won” by Daniel Payne at The Federalist “Journalists, media types, reporters, you have two choices: you can fix these problems, or you can watch your profession go down in flames.” Payne provides detailed documentation of sixteen fake new stories. None were well-researched. All received lavish attention from mainstream journalist. All proved false, with the retractions lightly reported.
A WaPo op-ed: “The media botched this Trump story last week — and that’s bad for everyone” by Jackson Diehl (Deputy Editor).
“The Trump administration has launched a raft of ill-considered, reckless and wrongheaded foreign policy initiatives in its first two weeks… One thing Trump has decidedly not done, however, is downgrade the participation of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the deliberations of the National Security Council. Opening…
“You may have heard and read otherwise, repeatedly. Therein lies an illustration of how communication between the executive and mainstream media, and with it coverage of the Trump administration, has already come unhinged. …Media organizations look less credible on the real Trump transgressions when they, inadvertently or otherwise, report the routine as scandalous. “
(2) Do we trust journalists or Trump?
Emerson College polled registered voters, asking who they consider trustworthy (report here).
“Do you believe the Trump administration has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?”
- Truthful: 49% — including 89% of Republicans and 42% of independents.
- Untruthful: 48% — including 77% of Democrats and 52% of independents.
“Do you believe the news media has been generally truthful or generally untruthful?”
- Truthful: 39% — including 69% of Democrats and 45% of independents.
- Untruthful: 53% — including 91% of Republicans and 47% of independents.
For a different perspective, Gallup asks if we believe journalists have been too tough or too easy on the Trump administration (report here).
(3) Do we trust journalists?
Gallup’s annual polls also show the long slow deterioration of American’s confidence in the news media (report here). The fraction with “very little” or “no” confidence is at a record high; the fraction with “a great deal” or “a lot” is at a record low. For a business that relies on its readers’ confidence, this indicates an industry in terminal decline.
Now we have many news media, not just newspapers. How much confidence do we have in them as a group? Not much, but more than we have in newspapers. I find that odd. (Report here.)
How do the people in each party see the mass media?
(4) News Media expert Jay Rosen explains
Jay Rosen (prof of journalism at NYU; see Wikipedia) has written scores of articles about the on-going crisis in journalism. He identifies many problem, both internal and external to the press, both simple and complex. Five explanations from 2012. His banking theory of newsroom trust from 2015.
He confidently states that “our reporting is truthful“, but it is a matter of faith. His body of articles is too large to review, but I see no quality control measurements by his industry — nor research exploring the causes driving the public’s loss of trust (which is faster than our overall loss of confidence in institutions). That’s odd, since this is an existential challenge to the industry.
I do not see that Rosen considers the obvious answer: we do not trust them because they do not do their job very well. Their coverage of the Trump administration has been inaccurate. The long record of inaccuracy by TV investigators on big stories (e.g., exploding cars). Their coverage of the 2015-16 El Nino limelighted extreme forecasts (often by amateurs) predicting a super monster Godzilla El Nino and gave little attention to the moderate forecasts by NOAA (which correctly predicted it would be roughly as strong as 1997-98 El Nino). There are journalists’ credulous repetition of doomster stories, which routinely prove false. Journalists’ innumeracy.
It is a long list. Perhaps journalists have gotten less skilled at their craft. Perhaps they have become more skilled, but our expectations have risen faster (after all, quality of most goods and services have improved).
Perhaps eventually desperation will force journalists to reconsider how they cover the news. Until then Rosen and his peers will ignore this problem, preferring to write self-justifying articles such as “Trump is no wizard of modern media. He just lacks a sense of shame.”
One thing Rosen does get right: the collapse of confidence in the media is bad for society. The public’s loss of confidence in journalists creates an opening for propagandists and charlatans.
(5) For More Information
For more information about the business of journalism see Ken Doctor’s articles at Nieman Labs, such as his article about the 2015 census by the Am Society of Newsroom Editors. Also see the ASNE survey. The Pew Research 2016 State of the News Media report is even grimmer reading.
- Describing the problem: Politics in modern America: A users’ guide for journalists and reformers.
- We live in an age of ignorance, but can decide to fix this – today.
- American politics is a fun parade of lies, for which we pay dearly.
- Ways to deal with those guilty of causing the fake news epidemic.
- The secret source of fake news. Its discovery will change America.
- A new year’s gift: two tools to help discover truth in the news.