This past week brought some sobering news for journalists from America’s legacy media. A recent Reuters poll conducted in January and February of this year revealed a truth at once startling and unsurprising: The United States ranks dead last of 46 countries in trust in media. A mere 29% of Americans surveyed said they trust the news. Adding insult to injury, the U.S. Fourth Estate was handily dispatched by countries such as Finland, Kenya, and Canada, which enjoyed approval ratings of 65%, 61%, and 45%, respectively.
The decline of journalism these numbers represent is a writ large crisis of integrity in American media. The New York Times had a brief but ultimately disingenuous moment of institutional self-reflection after Donald Trump’s stunning 2016 defeat of Hillary Clinton. The Times seemed to admit that it had been swept up in reporting from the myopia of an elite coastal city and failed to consider the many millions throughout the country who felt increasingly disenfranchised from the American Dream and snidely disparaged by the Grey Lady and her ilk in the media. That hollow and performative attempt at journalistic self-searching lasted a week – tops.
With the patina of objectivity set aflame, The NYT leaned into its leftward tilt until the base partisanship was only too obvious. Then, the paper began sacrificing basic journalistic principles to privilege – uber alles – the new narrative. And what was that agenda? It was to harangue, hobble, discredit, and ultimately defeat Trump by any means necessary – accuracy and truth be damned.
The new marching orders throughout the largely left-leaning American media were to apply maximum pressure to the new administration. With that raison d’etre, the press worked in lockstep to saddle Trump with unfavorable exposure. According to a Harvard study, 93% of coverage of Trump throughout all of the media was negative. Meanwhile, his many considerable successes were either downplayed, ably spun to reflect poorly on him, or ignored.
But once you make your deal with the devil, there is always a day when the bill comes due. With everyday Americans now using air quotes around the word “journalism” when referring to formerly unimpeachable sources of information, the chickens have come home to roost. The people have been awakened rudely from their slumbering daydreams of an America in which the press endeavors to tell them the truth.
Is it any wonder?
We were told by CNN, MSNBC, and most major newspapers throughout the country that Trump had colluded with Russia and with Vladimir Putin to win the most seismic election of our lifetimes. For over two agonizing years, the country was rent asunder and divided by a false assertion steeped in prevarication and deceit. Even though the media ran cover for them, we learned how politicized our intelligence agencies were – how arrogant and willing to weaponize federal power to achieve their ends.
The American media told us that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual assault as a young man – a 36-year-old claim made by Christine Blasey Ford, who could not remember the year it occurred, the home at which the party she attended was held, how she got there, or how she got home. Memory is tricky, so she can be afforded the benefit of the doubt. But the assumptions of guilt and the overall savagery of the press coverage of Justice Kavanaugh cannot be forgiven.
We were told by the Fourth Estate that Trump kept immigrant children at the border in cages – the very enclosures Obama had used during his time in office. We were told that Trump had cleared Lafayette Park using tear gas for a photo opportunity – an utter falsehood proven to be so by an exhaustive, year-long watchdog report.
Our legacy media told us that riots following George Floyd’s murder – which caused an estimated two billion dollars in damage and resulted in 18 additional deaths – were “peaceful protests.” Yet, these same institutions worked like a well-trained cheerleading squad to brand the unconscionable January 6 Capitol riots an armed “insurrection” – one that occasioned the death of Officer Brian Sicknick, whom The New York Times informed us was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher by MAGA protestors. Both “facts” were false.
In the days leading up to the 2020 election, the mainstream media told us that the recovery of Hunter Biden’s laptop, replete with highly salacious photos and evidence of illegal activity, was Russian disinformation. Twitter blocked the New York Post from sharing the bombshell story of the year – one a very substantial number of voters later polled said would’ve swayed their decision on Election Day had they known about it.
The United States media mocked anyone who suggested that SARS-CoV-2 may have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan – while its social media handmaids canceled, censored, or deplatformed these same “heretics” for claiming something so outrageous. Nevertheless, the lab-leak postulate has now satisfied Ockham’s Razor to quickly become consensus theory – even though proving it will likely be impossible after gifting China a whole year and a half to cover its tracks.
But political physics suggests the pendulum is swinging back – proof that there is an equal and opposite reaction to every action. CNN is hemorrhaging viewership with its marquee talent Jake Tapper having lost a staggering 75% of his audience since January. A court ruling determined that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s “statements cannot reasonably be interpreted as allegations of fact.”
Facebook may have sidestepped a congressional anti-trust effort brought by the attorneys general of 48 states, but the stinging rebuke may only embolden Congress to act with rare bipartisanship to limit the metastasizing power of these self-appointed gods of Silicon Valley. And Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey may have reached the limits of his power after kicking the President of the United States off his platform – while simultaneously providing safe haven for Ayatollah Khomeini and Louis Farrakhan.
Given these many hypocrisies, is it in the least a surprise that the goodwill and trust of the American public for the media is at an all-time low?
Read more from author Pennel Bird.