Dissatisfaction with News Media

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The American public is not happy with journalists or the news that they cover, according to a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center.

Only 25 percent of people say that news organizations are factual within their stories, and 66 percent say that stories are "often inaccurate". This is quite the decline from 2007 when 39 percent said that news mostly got their facts straight, and 53 percent said that stories are inaccurate.

An overwhelming majority of the public also believe that the press is "often influenced by powerful people and organizations" and "tend to favor one side".

Of the 12 evaluation categories of news media, nine equal or surpass record highs in percent of displeased responders, indicating that the public is growing more and more dissatisfied with the media.

There is some good news, though. The public trusts news organizations (especially local news) more than state and federal government, business, and congress. (While I'm not sure that this is really GOOD news, it does make journalists feel a little better!)

Pew Research Center releases an annual report on the public views of the values of news media. They have been performing this survey since 1985.

With all of these negative views on news media, shouldn't we do something about it? One of the main goals of journalism is to provide factual information to the public, something that they are telling us we are not doing.

Joseph Pulitzer, establisher of the coveted Pulitzer Prize, warned of biased media in his journalistic credo:
Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.

Click here for a complete report of Pew Research Center's findings.


Public Lacks Trust in the Press

Americans don't believe every thing they see, hear or read. According to a Pew Study, citizens have a hard time trusting the press.

The poll reported "66% say news stories often are inaccurate, 77% think that news organizations tend to favor one side, and 80% say news organizations are often influenced by powerful people and organizations."

Although these figures may seem abysmal, the public trusts the press more than government and business, and "62% say their main news sources get the facts straight."

Because the press is supposed to be the trusted source of information. It's watchdog reputation means that Americans should be able to rely on the news to tell the truth in regards to government, business, and any facet of life.

All journalists should take note of these statistics. Personally, this reinforces my belief in double- and triple-checking facts and interviews because our readers and viewers shouldn't have to question our credibility or motivations.

Our job is to report.

It should be that simple. Ask questions. Write down the answers. Report the facts.



Social Media Background Checks

Social media is a powerful tool. It can be used to define and brand yourself – for some, this can be either good or bad. Social media background checks are not a novel idea as employers have been using social media go research potential candidates for years.

Vanessa Junkin of the Carroll County Times reports on how social media affects today’s modern hiring process. Employers need be wary and potential employees be aware, there are rules in place for such a process.

Social media screenings for positions may only screen for certain types of information. As Junkin points out, these screenings may look for excessive use of vulgar language, racial remarks, inappropriate photos, and references to violent tendencies.

Vivian Luckiewicz of Law.com reports on some of the restrictions of such screenings. While there is no law against social media background checks, employers must continue to abide by fair practice hiring laws already in place. While conducting social media background checks, as with other background checks, employers may not discriminate against race, religion, age, disability, or gender.

Junkin interviewed Don McCombie, president and virtual CEO of NoWorriesIT. Junkin asked McCombie about the influence social media has on the hiring process.

“A candidate doesn’t become disqualified for just a silly comment,” McCombie said. “The check [is] more to see what the person’s character is like.

It is important to keep in mind not only how you and your peers view your social media presence, but also how potential employers view it as well.


Social Media Fills Gap Left by Press

In Mexico City, before police and reporters even arrived to the location of a violent crime twitter users were tweeting about the dangerous situations advising readers to avoid the area. Is social media saving lives in Mexico? Damien Cave reports on the importance of social media and the need it fills in the New York Times.

Recently, a law was passed by the Veracruz State Assembly made it illegal for social network users to use such outlets to undermine public order. This comes following charges last month when two individuals spread rumors via Twitter that local schools were under attack causing mass panic.

Cave interviewed Andres Monroy-Hernandez, a doctoral candidate from Mexico at the M.I.T. Media Lab.

“Social media is filling the gap left by the press,” Monroy-Hernandez said. “In different regions of Mexico, both the state and the press are weak, while organized crime is becoming stronger and, in some places, replacing the state.”

Social media is quickly becoming the largest, most trusted source of information in Mexico. In a country with weak press, Twitter is becoming a staple of not only information, but safety in some dangerous areas.

How much credit should the general public give to information passed along by social media? In some cases, information may divert individuals away from a crime scene. However, in some cases false information may cause mass panic. How can this be monitored?


The Ecosystem of Journalism

We have discussed in many posts the future of journalism, and decline in traditional media. One group of graduate students has decided to quit discussing it and use scientific methods and studies to help save the industry. The City University of New York School of Journalism has a program of dedicated students in its graduate journalism program that have begun the attempt to take on this rising challenge.

The project, being funded by the Knight and McCormick Foundations, is taking a new approach to build revenues and lasting companies in this unstable market. Two conferences sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation is where it all began as well as the idea to look at journalism as an ecosystem to better understand where strides can be made.

Viewing the industry as an ecosystem has allowed these students to identify who is reliant on each other and examine how all of the components in each niche work together. Advertising, local news and papers are some of the areas of greater focus. They believe by working in unison with all of the players, a more comprehensive approach to solving the problem of declining revenues is feasible.

Another major focus for the students is on-line news. They will be gathering new information and doing experiments to see how they can generate the most revenue.

"You may want to be small, but to succeed at being small, you probably have to be probably have to be part of something big."-Mark Potts.

Being part of something big is just what these students will be if they can solve all of the problems in journalism. They will be relying on each other, just as we all do in this ecosystem, for support and ideas as they try and save the future of the news.


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