THUNDER BAY – Americans continue to express near-record-low confidence in newspapers and television news, with no more than 25% of Americans saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in either. These views have hardly budged since falling more than 10 percentage points from 2003-2007.
Those are the findings of the latest Gallop poll released by Pew Media Research.
The decline in trust since 2003 is also evident in a 2009 Gallup poll that asked about confidence and trust in the “mass media” more broadly. While perceptions of media bias present a viable hypothesis, Americans have not grown any more likely to say the news media are too conservative or too liberal.
45% of Americans say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly, on par with last year’s record-low 43%. 18% of Americans have no confidence in the media at all, among the worst grades Gallup has recorded
The media as a whole are not gaining new fans, says the report, as they struggle to serve and compete with growing demand for online news, social media, and mobile platforms. The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual report on the State of the News Media, released in March, found for a third straight year, only digital and cable news sources growing in popularity, while network news, local news, and newspaper audiences shrink.
While it is unclear how much respondents factored in the online and cable offshoots of “newspapers” and “television news” when assessing their confidence in these institutions, their responses do not provide much encouragement for the media more broadly, concludes the report.
While 18- to 29-year-olds express more trust in newspapers than most older Americans, Gallup polling has found they read national newspapers the least. Younger Americans also expressed more confidence than older Americans in several other institutions tested, including Congress, the medical system, and the criminal justice system, suggesting younger Americans are more confident in institutions in general.
Local television news continues to be Americans’ preferred source of daily news, with 51% of Americans saying they turn to it daily. Cable news and local newspapers are everyday sources of news for 40% of Americans. And for the first time since Gallup began asking this question in 1995, significantly more Americans say they turn to cable news networks daily than say they turn to nightly network news programs.
The Internet has shown the biggest increase in popularity as a news source, with 31% of Americans now saying it is a daily news source. This marks a nearly 50% increase since 2006 and a more than 100% increase from 2002. Use of the Internet as a news source has increased each time Gallup has asked about it, beginning in 1995.
With nearly all news organizations struggling to keep up with the up-to-the-minute news cycle and to remain profitable in the process, Americans’ low trust in newspapers and television news presents a critical barrier to success. The Pew report asserts that 80% of new media links are to legacy newspapers and broadcast networks, making clear that traditional news sources remain the backbone of the media. But so long as roughly three in four Americans remain distrustful, it will be difficult to attract the large and loyal audiences necessary to boost revenues.
The other message here is for manufacturers of newsprint. As the number of people purchasing daily newspapers in the United States continues to drop, so too will the demand for newsprint.
The impact on Northwestern Ontario should be one that has business leaders, and politicians looking past the forests to see our future.
The reality is that while forestry was the economic driver for our past successes, it is not going to take that role again. A paper mill in Great Britain perhaps offers a glimpse of the future. Instead of harvesting the boreal forest, the mill harvests the urban forest, and recycles newsprint.
The growing power of technology will continue to impact our region. Our task is to embrace the change.
You already have, you are getting your news online.