Public confidence in newspapers has been declining for more than a generation.
Now Gallup says only 20% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the institution that has proclaimed itself the “public watchdog” for more than a couple centuries.
I think it’s been a long-running head fake.
It’s somewhat surprising to me that younger folks (18-34) have relatively positive attitudes toward newspapers—America’s dailies and weeklies have notoriously lost their fight to keep younger readers. Less than 20% of folks under 35 claim to have read a newspaper yesterday. Even among this minority of readers, those with unfavorable perceptions outnumber those with favorable views of newspapers.
Let’s push the point here: Gallup doesn’t elaborate on the meaning of “have a great deal of confidence in newspapers.” Confidence about what?
Journalists and newspaper owners have always trumpeted their self-appointed role as a watchdog institution that champions the interests of “the public.”
I’ve never seen any statistics on the scope or success of this watchdog role. Of course, newspapers big and small have done investigative stuff from time to time, and occasionally a blockbuster story about scandal, corruption and greed makes big headlines for a while.
Think about all the bad stuff and the bad guys who never get a headline.
Newspapers have left an awful lot of watchdog stuff get past them.
Now, the core of newspaper readers are older folks who have lifelong reading habits. When they die, there’s no one to replace them.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.