Newsroom of the New York Times
Blaming the internet for the decline of the mainstream media is a popular pastime, but blatant bias is what has hurt the MSM the most, writes S. T. Karnick.

The latest public polling information from the Pew Research Center "finds crumbling trust in the news media’s accuracy hits a 24-year low," as AP put it. The story continued:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans think the news stories they read, hear and watch are frequently inaccurate, according to a poll released Sunday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. That marks the highest level of skepticism recorded since 1985, when this study of public perceptions of the media was first done.

The drop was an astonishing ten percentage points in one year, the story notes:

The survey found that 63 percent of the respondents thought the information they get from the media was often off base. In Pew Research’s previous survey, in 2007, 53 percent of the people expressed that doubt about accuracy.

It hardly seems merely coincidental that this decline happened in the very year that the media went in the tank for Barack Obama and did their level best to help make him President.

The AP story correctly noted that the poll question didn’t distinguish between "new" and "old" media, but media critic Howard Kurtz tacitly acknowledged that this is all about the lack of credibility of the mainstream media, not the internet, in his Washington Post column, by giving examples only of opinions on the mainstream media. The conclusion is inevitable, Kurtz writes:

Public respect for the media has plunged to a new low, with just 29 percent of Americans saying that news organizations generally get their facts straight.

That figure is the lowest in more than two decades of surveys by the Pew Research Center, which also found just 26 percent saying news outlets are careful that their reporting is not politically biased. And 70 percent say news organizations try to cover up their mistakes. That amounts to a stunning vote of no confidence.

The new wrinkle is that Democrats are increasingly unhappy with a profession long viewed as liberal, with 59 percent saying news reporting is often inaccurate, up from 43 percent two years ago.

The AP story notes that as the public increasingly perceives the mainstream media as biased, they are abandoning them and the media are suffering severe and likely ultimately fatal financial losses:

The financial problems mainly stem from a steep decline in the ad sales that generate most of the media’s revenue. Newspapers’ print editions have been losing readers to the Internet, and broadcasters’ audiences are fragmenting in an age of cable TV and satellite radio.

Newspaper ad sales plunged by 29 percent, or nearly $5.5 billion, during the first half of this year, according to the Newspaper Association of America. TV ad revenue on broadcast stations dropped by 12 percent, or nearly $3 billion, during the same period, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. Radio advertising fell by 23 percent, or $2.3 billion, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau.

Some of this surely has to do with the recession, but newspaper and magazine ad revenue had been dropping precipitously for several years before this, as the public got tired of all the bias and the media elite’s open contempt for commonly held values. With the press being perceived as at its most biased since the 1980s (when they were hammering President Reagan with all their might), they’ve too clearly separated themselves from the people who pay their salaries.

The difference between the ’00s and the ’80s, of course, is that there’s now somewhere else to go, as the internet set off an explosion of alternative sources of news, analysis, commentary, and entertainment.

Hence, as the AP story put it, "The findings indicate U.S. newspapers and broadcasters could be alienating the audiences they are struggling to keep as they try to survive financial turmoil." Yes, the internet provides an alternative, but people are going there because the mainstream media are pushing them away. That’s what the facts say.

–S. T. Karnick