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April 20, 2016

Poll: Getting Facts Right Key to Public Trust in Media

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Illustrative image of journalists from Wikimedia Commons

Reporting on the findings of a study by the Media Insight Project, AP writes:

Trust in the news media is being eroded by perceptions of inaccuracy and bias, fueled in part by Americans' skepticism about what they read on social media.

Just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media, putting the news industry about equal to Congress and well below the public's view of other institutions. . . .

Nearly 90 percent of Americans say it's extremely or very important that the media get their facts correct, according to the study. About 4 in 10 say they can remember a specific incident that eroded their confidence in the media, most often one that dealt with accuracy or a perception that it was one-sided.

The news media have been hit by a series of blunders on high-profile stories ranging from the Supreme Court's 2012 ruling on President Barack Obama's health care law to the Boston Marathon bombing that have helped feed negative perceptions of the media.

In 2014, Rolling Stone had to retract a vivid report about an alleged gang rape at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia. The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, asked by Rolling Stone to investigate after questions were raised about the veracity of the story, called it an avoidable journalistic failure and "another shock to journalism's credibility amid head-swiveling change in the media industry."

"The most important thing that news organizations can do is be accurate, and while we know that is a high value, this study reinforces that," said Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times.

Meanwhile, in a column looking back at the end of her tenure, Sullivan bemoans The Times' "defensiveness." She writes:

Although The Times runs many corrections and has two staff people, including a senior editor, whose main job is correcting errors, it’s safe to say that many Times journalists find it hard to admit they got something wrong. In fact, what’s much more likely than any such admission is the tendency to double down. As one commenter, Dotconnector, asked recently: Will Times editors “ever get out of their defensive crouch? Or is it a permanent deformity?” This is so much the case that when an editor does say something like “it’s not acceptable and I will make sure, personally, that it doesn’t happen again,” as Carolyn Ryan did after a presidential campaign coverage complaint, readers could hardly believe it. Nobody likes to be criticized, myself included. But given The Times’s outsize power, its reporters and editors may have a special obligation to acknowledge the need for improvement.

For observers and critics of Times coverage of Israel, which recent specific incident further eroded their trust in "The Paper of Record"? The false story (subsequently corrected, thanks to CAMERA) that Israel evicts Palestinians for bogus reasons like changing a rusting door? Or the false report that scholars dispute whether or not the Jewish temples ever stood on the Temple Mount (also corrected).

For a comprehensive list of the scores of New York Times corrections prompted by CAMERA over more than 15 years, please see here.

Posted by TS at April 20, 2016 05:26 AM

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