Exactly What Is A Journalist’s Job, Not Everyone Agrees
I don't recognize the news of today. Many of you apparently feel the same way because surveys have shown that Americans lack trust in -and- have a low opinion of journalists. A new study shows one reason for that could be because of a failure to understand the difference between what journalists think their job is versus what the public thinks the journalist's job is supposed to be.
A recently released study from the Media Insight Project (MIP) lists five core principles that they have determined drives most journalists:
Keep watch on public officials and the powerful;
Amplify voices that often go unheard;
Society works better with information out in the open;
The more facts people have the closer they will get to the truth;
It’s necessary to spotlight a community’s problems to solve them.
That sounds sounds off to me...by definition, journalists aren't social justice warriors. They don't decide an outcome and then report to foster that end. Reporters used to collect and present facts from all sides so that the public can be informed enough to take the action on the issues it sees as important and bring about the results the public wants, regardless of reporters personal feelings. That's the way Lance Tormey and I were trained decades ago.
Sadly things have changed. Now we have people like the Edward R. Murrow lifetime achievement winner, NBC anchorman Lester Holt, saying "objectivity is overrated". Journalist's opinions now seem to matter more than the facts. Activism has replaced accurate observation and contextual presentation.
But you know all this because it's your trust that has been eroded. In January, an Axios article titled " Media Trusts Hits New Low" shows the dismal numbers:
"For the first time ever, fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media, according to data from Edelman's annual trust barometer shared exclusively with Axios." At the same time, trust in social media has hit an all-time low of 27%.
- 56% of Americans agree with the statement that "Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations."
- 58% think that "most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public."
- When re-polled after the election, the figures had deteriorated even further
Back to the Five Core Principles - providing people with the facts was the only one to claim a majority support, with 67 percent . Just half agreed the news should give a voice to the less powerful. Only 46 percent agree the press should keep watch on the powerful; 44 percent were on board with putting information out in the open, and a skimpy 29 percent agree with spotlighting what's not right. A mere 11 percent agreed with all five principles.
Interestingly it was values not politics that pushed the public's concern. Bottom line, the news departments of the broadcast industry can do what they want, but their current approach isn't working to grow or keep an audience. At the rate they are going, journalists will soon be reporting only to each other...and there is no money in that and sooner or later, money will have a say. Is there a chance things could turn around?
“Although the public might not fully embrace core principles of journalism, there are clear signs of hope for the media in this report,” said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center. “A better understanding of how Americans’ moral values are connected to their views of news can help journalists identify how they can frame their stories to appeal to a broader audience.”