Less than half of Americans have confidence that journalists act in the best interests of the public, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
Despite all of this skepticism, nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents believe that some wariness of the news media is good for society.
“There are all of these often negative views of the media, and at the same time, there is this sense of optimism in the future,” said senior researcher Jeffrey Gottfried.
A majority of Americans (75%) said it’s possible to improve their level of confidence in the media. The study suggests that it’s up to journalists to be more transparent, issue corrections when necessary and form deeper connections with the American public.
Americans’ skepticism of the news media is related, in part, to a lack of connection. Most respondents (57%) said they don’t feel particularly valued by their news outlets. Yet 55% said it is at least somewhat important to have personal connections with their news sources.
Black Americans surveyed felt most strongly that representation in the media would help them feel more connected. More than two thirds (68%) said it was very or somewhat important that journalists “cover people like me,” whereas only 41% of white respondents and 54% of Hispanic respondents agreed.
“People in different subgroups within the population often do have different views, different relationships, different priorities of their news sources,” Gottfried said. “And that seems to be coming to play in newsroom discussions in today’s current environment.”
Americans also don’t trust news outlets to report on corrections or funding. Six in 10 respondents said that journalists don’t do a sufficient job explaining when there are conflicts of interest in their reporting. Similarly, nearly seven in 10 respondents said news outlets do a poor job of disclosing where their money comes from and believe organizations try to cover up mistakes. And while audiences do want news sources to post corrections, those who believe errors were committed because of malintent are more likely to be Republicans who support President Donald Trump.
Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 American adults earlier this year and held 10 focus groups in November 2019.
Eliana Miller is a recent graduate of Bowdoin College. You can reach her on Twitter @ElianaMM23, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.