There is general agreement what Americans want from the news media and what journalists want to report, according to studies that also revealed a troubling caveat: a nagging feeling among both that the ideal isn’t being met.
The surveys of the American public and journalists were released by the Media Insight Project. It was a collaboration between The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute.
The surveys found about 3 in 4 journalists believe the public’s level of trust in the news media has decreased in the past year. Yet only 44 percent of American adults said their level of trust has decreased. The public wants what most journalists say they want to give it — news stories that are factual and offer context and analysis, according to the American Press Institute. The public doesn’t feel like it’s seeing enough of that work, with 42 percent of Americans saying journalists stray too far into commentary, according to the new research.
Much of journalism’s shared language and structure are rooted in newspapers, yet many Americans get their news through social media streams, where it isn’t clear from where the stories come. Newspapers have “op-ed” sections, yet half of the public doesn’t know what the term means. We have run across people who don’t know what an editorial is and don’t distinguish between what is a commentary, or column, compared to a news story.
Most American adults aged 18 to 29 think the news is fairly inaccurate, while most above age 30 felt it was fairly accurate.
There’s broad agreement that journalists need to do a better job of explaining their work; 68 percent of the public said the media should offer more information about its sources — and 66 percent of journalists agree. Nearly half of the public said journalists should explain how their story was reported and 42 percent of the journalists said the same thing.
Only a little more than half of the people said the press should act as a watchdog to powerful people and institutions, while 93 percent of journalists view this as their role. When Americans were asked about their favorite news organization, a third of them said they trust it more than they did a year ago. Only a few said their trust had declined.
And so it goes. There is no question that there is room for improvement, especially for journalists to explain their role in informing the public.