Craigslist founder Craig Newmark commissioned a survey of Americans’ trust of news sources. The Washington, D.C.-based polling firm Lincoln Park Strategies conducted the research, which interviewed 1,001 people over the telephone (landlines and cell phones were called). Among the findings:
- Newspapers are the most trusted source of news for most respondents, but that’s not exactly something to crow about: Only 22 percent overall called newspapers “very credible” for reporting on politics and elections. Interesting: Nearly a third of black respondents trusted newspapers highly, while only 22 percent of whites did. (See below for a breakdown.* Results from Native Americans and people of Asian origin, a not statistically significant group in this survey, are not included in the above-linked infographic.) Cable and networks news are a close second with 21% saying they are very credible. (A Gallup poll last fall found 55% of Americans distrust the media generally.)
- 34 percent of all respondents thought social media had a “negative effect” on the quality of news; 17% thought it had a positive effect.
- Only 6 percent of respondents said being first to report a story was very important to them in choosing a news source, a finding that supports caution in reporting breaking news that before it’s confirmed. Twenty-three percent said they prized “in-depth analysis,” and 49 percent said trustworthiness is most important. I’m not clear on how they assessed that quality.
Newmark digs in on the latter point in a press release. “It’s called factchecking, and there are a lot of good people working on it. …They’re looking at ways to help the news media hold candidates and other public figures accountable for what they tell the public. So far it’s hard, and it’s not inexpensive, but it’s really important.”
Some newspaper managers may involuntarily cough up a little blood at an admonition to invest in fact-checking from a guy whose service has contributed to plunging bottom lines industry-wide, but Newmark’s passion for accuracy has led him to organize a conference about fact-checking, he’s involved with a number of likeminded journalistic institutions (including PolitiFact, the franchised fact-checking outfit that is operated by Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times), and he’s said that this issue “is the biggest thing I might help with in my life.”
*Theorize in the comments about the political, race, gender and age differences in the news sources we trust.