A new international study finds that 45 of 46 countries surveyed have higher percentages of citizen trust in their media outlets than the United States. The report did not include China and Russia. The hook is devastating: U.S. media score lowest on the global trust scale. “Political divides fuel much of this mistrust in the United States, with those who self-identify on the right being more than twice as likely to distrust the news compared with those on the left,” the study determined.
Who Funded It?
The report was compiled by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which is based out of the University of Oxford in the UK. “Our core funding comes from the Thomson Reuters Foundation,” the corporate foundation arm of the international wire service, the organization states on its website. Thomson Reuters is “the only funder who has any role in our governance structure, which is set up to maintain our independence,” the institute states.
Despite the disclaimer, other funders to the institute include Google, the BBC, and progressive globalist billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. The Google News Initiative is listed as the highest individual donor to the institute for 2019-20, coming in at over one million British pounds. Despite the “core funding” statement, the Thomson Reuters Foundation was listed in the £200K-500K category, far behind the Big Tech goliath.
What They Found
All that is well worth noting when considering the reported findings and what the institute makes of them. The crumbling trust in big-box American media outlets is acknowledged, yet must be explained. From the report:
“Interest in the news in the United States has declined by 11 percentage points in the last year to just 55%. To some extent this is not surprising as our poll was conducted after the turbulent events on Capitol Hill in January and the departure of [former President] Donald Trump. But our data show signs that many former Trump supporters may be switching away from news altogether. Almost all of this fall in interest came from those on the political right.”
Interestingly, the institute believes the coronavirus spurred an increase in “straightforward” news reporting that boosted media trust worldwide. But not in America:
“We can speculate that this higher trust in the news – and in the sources people use themselves – could be related to extensive coverage of Coronavirus. This may have made the news seem more straightforward and fact-based at the same time as squeezing out more partisan political news in some countries. The United States is clearly an exception following deep divisions over a ‘stolen election’ and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. The US is one of the few countries not to have seen an increase in trust this year.”
Who’s to Blame?
The report clearly struggles with embracing comforting notions of political polarization spurring media distrust in America and the 10,000-pound gorilla in the room – overt media bias turning off consumers who want information, not challenges to their personal political beliefs, from news outlets:
“Further evidence of what is driving mistrust comes this year in a series of questions we are asking about fairness of mainstream media coverage. We can compare these answers with information we hold about age, gender, ethnicity, education, and political views. In the United States we can use this data to see how attitudes towards the media are affected by politics. Three-quarters (75%) of those who self-identify on the right feel that media coverage of their views is unfair and this compares with just a third of those on the left.”
Can “political divides” really serve as a plausible explanation for media distrust in the U.S. when three-quarters of citizens on the political right feel major media outlets are hostile to their personal views and two-thirds on the political left do not feel that way at all? The report also finds plummeting media trust among young people in America and Western Europe. “[I]n the UK both the left and the right feel that their political views are unfairly covered by the media,” the report claims.
The study notes generational divides and indicates that distrust in the media is not exclusive to the U.S. “Differences over age are even more stark, with the youngest group (U25s) feeling least fairly represented by the media,” it says, also stating: “In Germany, we find a similar problem with 18–24s and also with those on the right, who have weaponised terms like Lügenpresse (lying press) to express their unhappiness.”
The report thus admits the struggles so-called “mainstream media” organizations have in earning and keeping the trust of most Americans today. Yet, by leaning on the “partisan” consumer crutch, the institute implicitly states that it is the end-user who is the problem, not news organizations themselves.
As long as this “we don’t need to change, they do” dynamic, regularly seen in what passes for “ombudsman” writing at major newspapers today, continues, the total collapse in trust in American media outlets will only accelerate.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.