There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about regaining the public’s trust in the media. But to what end?
Jack Shafer regards the trust debate as bunk.
“Without a doubt, today’s press is more objectively trustworthy than the press of five decades ago, but it always ranks lower,” he told me. “Why? Because readers are more critical, as they should be.” Journalists, he said, should spend less time figuring out how to regain trust and more time getting their stories right.
We build trust when we get the story right — and when we acknowledge our mistakes. Public opinion research has shown that the public tends to trust the media more when they see corrections being made. And yet, journalists leave many errors uncorrected, or they fix errors without writing a correction. No one likes to admit they’re wrong. But the reality is, we often learn more from being wrong than from being right.
A Pew study released last week found that only 25 percent of the news consumers surveyed said that news organizations get the facts right. Two-thirds say stories are often inaccurate, and nearly 75 percent believe journalists try to cover up their mistakes.