AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Last week, a new Gallup poll revealed that public trust in the media has reached a new all-time low, with just 16 percent of respondents saying they “had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers,” and just 11 percent saying they have a high degree of confidence in television news. Yet despite clear signs like this in recent years that the public isn’t buying the biased reporting, misinformation, and outright lies most outlets are selling, the reactions from within the media establishment have ranged from bewilderment to denial, reflecting a widening gulf between the media class and ordinary Americans.
Both the 16 percent and 11 percent figures from the Gallup poll represent a 5 percent drop from the previous year, and the continuation of a sharp decline since 2016 in particular. Both figures have been effectively cut in half since 2017, when 27 percent of respondents said they had confidence in newspapers, while 24 percent said the same about TV news.
This phenomenon has not been lost on those in the media class, particularly as liberal outlets like CNN have seen a marked decline in viewership. For MSNBC’s Katy Tur, the decline in public trust in the media has led her to existential angst. “People don’t trust us. They don’t believe us, and it makes me wonder if this job —as I’m currently doing it— is effective… if it’s doing more harm than good,” she recently said during an appearance on The Hill TV. “I don’t have a good answer for that…. I’m hoping to find a way to better communicate with people.”
To Tur’s credit, her comments suggest a level of introspection that is not shared by many of her colleagues. Take, for example, CNN’s Brian Stelter, who is arguably the most unrepentant and aggressive apologist for the media. His show Reliable Sources is billed as “telling the story behind the story – how news and pop culture get made.” Last year, when another poll found that Americans’ trust in the media was dwindling, he said flatly that he “didn’t believe it,” arguing that polls about the media “don’t really tell us a lot.”
Politico senior media writer Jack Schafer made a similar argument in an op-ed last week entitled “You Trust the Media More Than You Say You Do.” Schafer’s argument, it seems, is that Americans today are just more skeptical and cynical than they used to be about our institutions, while the institutions themselves haven’t actually changed all that much. “Institutions might not have changed as much as the perceptions of them have,” Schafer writes. “The best explanation for the uniform drops might be that we’re living in an age of heightened criticism and scrutiny that leaves no faults or blemishes unnoticed compared to earlier eras.”
Other publications have offered similar speculative defenses, yet almost none have taken a moment to ask themselves if the distrust is warranted. Nearly without exception, their arguments ignore the very real reasons that Americans have to be more skeptical of mainstream news outlets.
Even a cursory glance at just the past few years of media coverage quickly reveals a pattern of bias and misinformation that justifies such skepticism. Perhaps the clearest example was the media’s breathless coverage of the debunked “Trump-Russia collusion” hoax and false reporting on the Steele Dossier, which may now lead to criminal prosecution for those involved. There was also the media’s treatment of Covington Catholic high school student Nick Sandmann, who won defamation lawsuits against both CNN and the Washington Post for slandering him as a racist. During the summer 2020 riots, liberal outlets engaged in a coordinated effort to mask the violent nature of the unrest, perhaps best encapsulated by the now infamous “fiery but mostly peaceful” CNN chyron.
Some of these incidents were so egregious that even some in the normally shameless mainstream press were forced to offer multiple corrections and mea culpas to their viewers and readers. But more often, the response of the media to their lies being exposed has been to either simply continue repeating the lie or ignore the issue altogether.
Nowhere is this clearer than with the “Hunter Biden laptop” scandal. Clearly recognizing that the story had a chance to affect the outcome of the 2020 election, the liberal media – in cahoots with Big Tech and the Democratic establishment – worked overtime to systematically scrub the story from the internet. Only more than a year after Joe Biden was sworn in did outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post finally admit that the story was legitimate – notably failing to offer any explanation for why they summarily dismissed it as “disinformation” in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election.
Nor does the corporate media seem capable of pulling out of its credibility nosedive. With its solemn coverage of the House Democrats’ Jan 6th hearings featuring only staged testimony and no dissenting witnesses, the media seems not even remotely aware it is only reinforcing much of the public’s view that the Democratic Party leadership and the major media outlets are one and the same entity. The media establishment also does not appear to understand that encouraging Democratic Party fanaticism is what got House Democrats in their current electoral predicament and so drastically lowered trust in the networks and big newspapers to begin with.
But even these incidents are only a snapshot of the media’s gross dereliction of duty in recent years. Far from fulfilling their obligation to hold those in power accountable, the media have acted as the mouthpiece of those in power, running cover for the Democratic Party and all of their failings. Even today, most in the media have simply rolled over and gone along with the Biden administration’s attempt to redefine what “recession” means in a desperate effort to change the narrative about the economy ahead of the midterms. Until that pattern changes, it’s likely that Americans will simply continue tuning out entirely.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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