Distrust of the News Media

Barry Giglio

This last year or so, media news sources in America have come under heavy fire, and people’s trust of news media has been declining. This is clearly illustrated by the myriad of recent polls and surveys that have been producing all time low numbers. In a 2017 Gallup poll, only 32% of respondents said they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in mass media to report news “fully, accurately, and fairly”. Gallup has been asking this question since 1972, and 32% is the lowest American’s confidence has been in news sources. A recent Reuters-Ipsos poll supports this result, with only 48% of respondents saying they have “a great deal” or “some” confidence in Journalists.

This leads us to an important question, where do these shocking stats come from? As with many problems, there are many possible explanations. These explanations can vary based on the people you ask. It can seem as though everyone has their own solution to solve the trust issues with the news media. It’s important to get many different viewpoints on the issue to get a full picture of the topic, and it can help us reach conclusions. That is why I conducted some interviews to help gain some perspective on different people’s ideas.

My first interview was with David DaSilva, a student from Ipswich High School. He may be young, but he’s certainly noticed a shift in news media in recent years. “I believe there’s some ‘fake news’ circulating out there,” DaSilva said. “I’m not confident in certain news sources at all. I feel like they portray what they want the public to know.”

When asked about the potential causes of the spread of “fake news”, one factor came up as a possible catalyst: the rise of social media. “Social media is free to use for everyone. That means anyone can post a story that gets seen by a large number of people. It’s a lot different than traditional news media that you have to subscribe to,” DaSilva stated. Social media has been viewed by many as a problem for journalism in general. Not only has it been accused of enabling the spread of false information and sensationalized articles, it has been accused of “pandering” to the audience. Instead of focusing on what is generally regarded as important news, online publications tend to focus on articles that will give them “clicks” for ad revenue. Perhaps something has to change about the way news is shared online in order for the American public to trust it.

In another interview, I got a chance to talk to Mary Giglio, an Ipswich resident, mother of two, and an avid follower of the news. Mrs. Giglio has a bit of a different view on the current state of news media. “I still think many of the news sources I read as credible. However, it’s still a good idea to be objective when consuming the news. You should never follow something 100% blindly” Mrs. Giglio said. She believes that, even though there may be some “fake news” out there, she can still trust the credible news sources she uses on a daily basis.

On the topic of news media and the internet, Mrs. Giglio also has a bit of a differing view. She believes the internet has had a positive impact on the news. “The internet is a good thing because you can see how different news sources take a subject and ‘spin’ it. It’s a good way to verify that you are receiving all the facts” Mrs. Giglio said. Thanks to the internet, if you use enough sources it’s pretty easy to find all the facts and get the full story. However, as Mrs Giglio stated before, just blindly trusting one source can mislead you; you may not get the full story or the full truth. It may take some extra work, but you will be well informed if you take the time to research a topic using multiple sources.  

The overall sense I got from the interviews was that DaSilva had a general distrust of the news, while Mrs. Giglio had a general trust of the news. Based on data, these results are par for the course based on the two interviewee’s ages. According to an article by Gallup, “…in the past decade, older Americans have mostly had more confidence (in news media) than younger Americans, and this year, the gap between these age groups is 12 points”. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the trust in news media is higher in the older generations, but there seems to be one strong possibility.

In general, younger people get their information from the internet, which, as was discussed earlier in the article, can be very untrustworthy. Older people who grew up with traditional news media always had a reliable source to turn to when they needed information, and that builds trust. Perhaps Americans would trust news more if they knew it came from a reputable and respected news source.