The function of the press in society is to inform, but its role in society is to make money.
Quotation attributed to: A.J. Liebling
My personal hypothesis is the Media has become part of the problem in the U.S.. Rather than providing unbiased reporting of the news, the Media increasingly creates the news. In my opinion, this has a negative impact on Brand America.
But, I wanted to better understand if I was alone in my perspective. To that end, I fielded a short online survey to try and generate some insights on the subject. It is my hope the results of this survey (described below) serve as a kick-start for a broader discussion on the role of the Media is shaping global perception of Brand America.
- To better understand general perception of the Media.
- To stimulate a dialogue (and ideally additional research) on how to improve Media objectivity and trustworthiness.
74% Born in the U.S.
04% Born in Canada
22% Born Elsewhere
27% >= 60 years old
54% >= 40 years old and <= 59 years old
19% <= 40 years old
89% claimed white
11% claimed non-white (includes black, latino, Asian and other)
12% Other political affiliation
212 Total respondents
Respondents were recruited and completed the survey online. This is an all comers survey. No supplemental effort was made to recruit specific demographics. While the survey is reasonably well balanced, the reader should be aware the survey is biased racially. Based on a quick scan of online material, I believe the results of this survey are directionally correct. Supplementing respondents to balance the racial demographic would likely increase the percentages associated with distrust of the media and simply reinforce the conclusions.
- People now view the internet rather than television as their #1 news source. Roughly 75% of respondents indicated the internet was a primary news source, while only 52% indicated television. For perspective, 36% also indicated a source other than the internet or television as a primary source. Note, respondents could select more than one “primary” news source.
- People believe the media significantly impacts global perception of Brand America. Nearly 40% of respondents felt the impact was “highly significant”. This compares to 56% who felt it was “significant”.
- People believe the media is biased. Only 16% of respondents felt the media was objective. In stark contrast, 59% felt the media was “biased” and 25% felt the media was “highly biased”.
- People believe the media is partisan. This is a sentiment held by the clear majority (78%) of people. Only 8% felt the media was not partisan (14% didn’t know).
- People have conditional trust in the media. Remarkably, despite the belief that the media is biased and partisan, 23% still trust the media “most to all of the time”. Most people though (64%) only trust the media “some of the time”.
- The media is no longer viewed as a trusted source of information. This is certainly disconcerting and has broad reaching implications going forward for the profession. You only have to assess the media coverage of the U.S. presidential race to understand why people feel the way they do. The media appears to have shifted from a position of reporting the news to one of actually making the news to increase revenue.
- The influence of the internet on public opinion is increasing. On one hand that can be a good trend since people can get access to different perspectives on any given subject. But, there is a lot of information on the internet that does not adhere to journalistic standards. Consequently, people can often be exposed to a plethora of wrong or misleading information. Websites like SNOPES.com, FactCheck.org, and the Washington Post Fact Checker are becoming indispensible tools for people interested in the truth.
The media has been described as the “fourth estate” and has an important role to play in a healthy democracy. People need to be able to rely on the media for information, to uncover abuses, to stimulate public debate, to provide multiple perspectives on subjects and to educate the public. To fulfill the role, it is imperative the media focus on facts rather than opinion and avoid sensationalizing or trivializing issues.
Given the results of this survey, clearly the media is not fulfilling its mission. In my opinion, the media has become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.