17 March 2009

Declining Trust in the News Media?

Here at VOA, we’re pleased when we see independent research that suggests our audiences around the world consider our news products highly credible. For example, a recent survey in Albania found 82% of those polled considered VOA’s “Ditari” news program “very trustworthy.” In Indonesia, a similar survey of VOA radio listeners there found 60% considered our broadcasts “very trustworthy.”

But here in the United States, people seem to be much more skeptical about the news they see, hear and read.

“The State of the News Media 2009”, an annual report on the health and status of American journalism, has just been released by the Project for Excellence in Journalism of the Pew Research Center, a nonpolitical, nonpartisan research institute.

It says on the issue of credibility:

“No major [U.S.] news outlet – broadcast or cable, print or online – stood out as particularly credible. There was no indication that Americans altered their fundamental judgment that the news media are politically biased, that stories are often inaccurate and that journalists do not care about the people they report on.”

In a bizarre twist, the survey found more and more Americans are relying on the Internet for their news. But at the same time the study found they “gave it [Internet] particularly low marks for credibility.”

The Pew report recalls that 10 years ago, more than 40% of Americans said they believed most or all of the reporting carried by major newspapers and television news operations. That figure has been dropping since then.

The most believable newspaper now is considered the Wall Street Journal, but only 25% “believe all or most” of what they read. Only 18% “believe all or most” of what they see in the New York Times.

Among broadcasters and cable news outlets, CNN gets a 30% rating for “believe all or most” with National Public Radio (NPR) at 27%.

Although Internet usage is up among people seeking news, the credibility ratings for on-line news outlets are lower than those for newspapers and broadcast and cable outlets. Just 13% give Google News the highest rating for believability, with Yahoo News second with 11%.

We wonder why there is such a discrepancy between the views of our audiences on media credibility and those of audiences looking at big name news organizations in the U.S. Is it that many people outside the United States, especially in countries where the independent media are less developed or press freedom is repressed, hunger for the kind of information that is available here and, as a result, give high marks to VOA? On the other hand, have U.S. news media somehow let their American audiences down or are American audiences simply too jaded?

If you have any thoughts on this, please share them with us by sending your comments to the News Blog: VOANewsBlog@gmail.com

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