The end of “objectivity”: S&R special report on journalism education

Part two in a series.

Let’s begin with a brief look at how Americans view the press.

  • A 2004 Gallup Poll says “Americans rate the trustworthiness of journalists at about the level of politicians and as only slightly more credible than used-car salesmen.”
  • Only about one in five Americans “believe journalists have high ethical standards, ranking them below auto mechanics but tied with members of Congress.”
  • Only “one in four people believe what they read in the newspapers.”
  • Chicago Tribune Editor Charles M. Madigan says: “If you are a journalist, you should probably just assume that you come across as a liar.”
  • A 1999 American Society of Newspaper Editors survey said that “53 percent of the public view the press as out of touch with mainstream America, while 78 percent think journalists pay more attention to the interests of their editors than their readers.”
  • About 22 percent of respondents to a 2003 Pew survey said they thought “the unethical practices of [Jayson] Blair, which included fabricating sources and events, occur frequently among journalists, while 36 percent said they thought wrongdoing happened occasionally. Another 58 percent believed journalists didn’t care about inaccuracies.”

It might be possible to argue that the American public, which grows less interested and intellectually capable by the day, might not have the wherewithall to form a highly credible opinion on the quality of news coverage (which is a complex business). But in this case expert and popular opinion aren’t far apart (and here I’ll simply point you to just about anything my colleague Dr. Denny has written on the subject either at S&R or over at Lost Lake Library Society).

So if we can all accept that, at the very least, journalism (of the institutional “objective” variety) is in serious trouble, we can move directly to a consideration of the reasons. Certainly there’s no one cause, but let’s start with the hellish toll that’s been taken by the massive consolidation of the news/media industry. (More…)

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