We have previously discussed how American journalism has been destroyed by years of openly partisan coverage in an age of echo journalism. Not surprisingly, the public has lost faith in what was once the leading nation in terms of journalistic practices and ethics. A new survey by the global communications firm Edelman (via Axios) found only 46 percent of Americans trust traditional media. That mirrors polls by Gallup showing an even lower level of trust. We are living in a new age of yellow journalism at a time when real journalism has never been more needed.
The loss of trust is greatest among Republicans, who view the media as openly aligned with the Democratic party and most recently the Biden campaign. Gallup’s 2020 results found that 73 percent of Democrats trusted the media, while only 10 percent of Republicans held such trust.
The plunging level of trust reflects the loss of the premier news organizations to a type of woke journalism. We have have been discussing how writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. Even journalists are leading attacks on free speech and the free press. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation.
One of the lowest moments came with the New York Times’ mea culpa for publishing an opinion column by a conservative senator. The New York Times was denounced by many of us for its cringing apology after publishing a column by Sen. Tom Cotton (R, Ark.). and promising not to publish future such columns. It will not publish a column from a Republican senator on protests in the United States but it will publish columns from one of the Chinese leaders crushing protests for freedom in Hong Kong. Cotton was arguing that the use of national guard troops may be necessary to quell violent riots, noting the historical use of this option in past protests. This option was used most recently after the Capitol riot.
There is no evidence that American journalism will return to its prior position of independent reporting. Reporters continue to offer openly partisan takes on stories (including clearly false stories) while burying other stories entirely. No editor or journalist wants to find themselves subject to same the treatment of the Times’ editor or others forced out for running unpopular positions or reports. The result is that audiences and readers are now left with siloed media sources that keep them within a comfort zone of reporting — maintaining narratives that neither challenge them nor educate them. That is why a majority of citizens do not trust the media as a source for information. In one generation, contemporary editors and journalists have utterly destroyed their profession — tossing aside generations of struggle by journalists to maintain strict principles of neutrality and integrity. The sad fact is that you can have the greatest protections for the media in the world in the First Amendment but our journalism will be no better than the journalists themselves. The Constitution can stop the government from government coercion but not media duplicity.
The great tragedy is that we need a legitimate media now more than ever. Citizens are facing deep and violent divisions without trust in what is being reported in our newspapers, television programs, and Internet sites.