Trust of media is growing in America

Some good news for the beleaguered journalism profession:  Trust in the media is up.

The Poynter Institute, considered by many as “the world’s most influential school for journalists” and a not-for-profit operation founded by St. Petersburg Times publisher Nelson Poynter, says surveys show trust in the media, especially local TV news and local newspapers, is up dramatically in America.

“Trust is also on the rise for all types of news, despite increased attacks on the credibility of the American press by President Donald Trump and others,” writes Tina Dyakon on Poynter’s website.

She adds:

These findings come from The Poynter Institute’s second Media Trust Survey, released (released in August of this year). The research found 54 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the media, a five-point increase from Poynter’s first Media Trust Survey published in December 2017.

Poynter’s findings:

  • 76% of Americans trust local television news
  • 73% trust local newspapers
  • 59% trust national newspapers
  • 55% trust national network news
  • 47% trust online-only news outlets

That trust is found across the political spectrum and is driven by Republican and independents whose trust is up:

  • 23% of Republicans trust news media overall, up four points since 2017
  • 71% of Republicans trust local TV news
  • 62% of Republicans trust local newspapers
  • 86% of Democrats trust news media overall, up 12 points since 2017
  • 88% of Democrats trust local TV news
  • 88% of Democrats trust local newspapers

“Local journalism connects with people where they live and in ways that are relevant to their daily lives,” Poynter President Neil Brown says. “Trust comes when there is a relationship, and for lots of people, even those with great interest in national affairs, the more personal relationship is with their local news source.”

Poynter Vice President Kelly McBride offers more observations:

It’s clear American citizens want to trust their news providers. But they need to feel as if the journalists reporting the news know them and understand them. This is a big opportunity for news leaders to reach out to their audience. Be transparent about what you’re doing and why, how you make decisions. Overcommunicate to the audience, invite them into your process. It goes a long way toward building trust.

The survey, conducted by public opinion and polling firm YouGov — funded by Poynter and Craig Newmark Philanthropies — interviews a scientific sample of 2,000 Americans in July of this year.

As a career newspaperman who has reported for both local and national publications over the past 50+ years, the statistics provide good news for a profession that has been under attack by the current presidential administration, which calls us an “enemy of the people.”

The increase in trust of the media comes at a time when other polling shows deepening distrust in government and political groups.  A USA/Suffolk University poll released this week says six in 10 Americans don’t trust President Donald Trump.  Only 24 percent say they “have a lot of trust” in the president while 59 percent “express little or not trust” in the president’s comments or denials of charges against him.

The poll shows 54 percent of Americans trust Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into wrongdoing by the Trump campaign in 2016 and actions of his assistants since then have resulted in guilty pleas or indictments of 33 people, including five now former Trump advisers, all of whom have pleaded guilty.

Oh yes, there is one “newspaperman” caught in Mueller’s web, publisher of The National Enquirer, the national “tabloid,” who admits helping Trump bury stories that might have hurt him in the 2016 election and paid some of the “hush money” paid to a former Playboy model.

As the host of a popular TV show once asked: “Who do you trust?”