The Rural Blog: 6/17/18
The latest Pew Research Center poll has troubling findings for American democracy and journalists who try to serve it: Many if most Americans have trouble informing the difference between truth and opinion. The study of 5,035 adults, taken Feb. 22 through March 8, provided them with five claims and asked them to identify each as opinion or fact. The total results weren’t stimulating.
The research found that individuals have a tendency to disagree with factual statements that they incorrectly label as an expression of opinion. The entire report has a summary of the claims, the responses to each, and the technique of the scholarly study. Exactly what does this scholarly study have to state to local news organizations? More than it might seem. The last two years show that the opinions of readers, viewers and listeners about their local news outlets has been influenced by the increasingly partisan and polarized atmosphere of nation-wide politics. Most of the criticism of the news press comes from President Trump and Republicans, but those on the still left also criticize national mass media outlets for pro-corporate cashing and bias in on Trump.
Perhaps the primary lesson of the research is that information outlets need to do a better job of separating, or at least differentiating, reality reality from opinion. It might not be for a newspaper to signal enough, with the writer’s picture and “columnist” in small type, that the piece is an appearance of opinion.
And maybe such columns should be reserved for a specific put on the printed web page — the far-left or far-right column — or reserved for the editorial spread or website. Oh, and there’s no proof Abraham Lincoln ever said that aphorism. Fake news isn’t new. Maybe a good daily feature for a paper or TV train station would be “Really Fake News, ” exploding common myths new and old regularly. Journalism must do back something to get its expert.
It could start with regaining its moral authority, but many of its big paymasters stand in the way too. As the network bosses have said, President Trump is good for their business. Local information organizations better do, however they should try to do even better, to earn and keep carefully the trust of their audiences. That’s good journalism, and good business.
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- Flowers and cards
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