When America Actually Trusted the Media
When America Actually Trusted the Media

When America Actually Trusted the Media

Larry Holzwarth - January 14, 2022

When America Actually Trusted the Media
Since the resignation of Richard Nixon, attacks on the media by political partisans have increased steadily. Wikimedia

20. Americans’ trust or distrust of the media depends on their political views

Since the scandals of the Nixon Administration, many others have plagued the federal government. There were the Abscam Scandal, the arms for hostages scandal (Iran-Contra), the 1980s Savings and Loans crisis, the Whitewater Investigation, and many more. The media covered them all, and since the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle in the 1980s in great detail. Still, whether that coverage has been trusted by the people has depended in large part on individual political orientation. Just as it has since the first press attacks during the Washington Administration, a large body of Americans trusts the media when they are told what they want to hear. When they are not, the media is labeled as biased, likely to provide slanted, or even blatantly false information, based on their own political positions and beliefs.

To firm conservatives, the American media is hopelessly biased towards liberals and socialism. To far-left supporters, the media is conservative and supportive of authoritarianism. Neither side trusts the media outlets they have determined are aligned with the other. Americans no longer obtain their news from trusted sources such as Walter Cronkite, or professional journalists. Instead, the bulk of their “knowledge” comes from entertainers, trained in fields other than journalism. Or, it comes from social media, repetition of unverified claims which gain momentum through internet sites. Yet the media still fares better than Congress when it comes to public trust. In a 2016 Pew Research poll, about 24% of respondents said they trusted national news organizations either “not too much” or “not at all”. In the same poll, 69% expressed distrust of Congress.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“American newspapers during ratification, 1787-1788”. Article, Center for the Study of the American Constitution. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Online

“About Gazette of the United States”. Article, Chronicling America. Library of Congress, Online

“National Gazette”. Article, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Online

“American Newspapers, 1800-1860. An Introduction”. Article, Illinois Library. Online

“America’s Manifest Destiny”. Exhibit, Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Online

“John Brown’s Day of Reckoning”. Fergus M. Bordewich, Smithsonian Magazine. October, 2009

“Our Story”. Article, Associated Press. Media Online

“Horace Greeley: American Journalist”. Article, Britannica Media Online

“The New York Times”. Article, New World Encyclopedia. Media Online

“Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper”. Article, American Antiquarian Society. Media Online

“William Lloyd Garrison”. Article, National Park Service. Media Online

“Joseph Pulitzer: American Newspaper Publisher”. Article, Britannica Online

“US Diplomacy and Yellow Journalism, 1895-98”. Article, Office of the Historian, US Department of State. Media Online

“Remember the Maine”. Tom Miller, Smithsonian Magazine. February, 1998

“Muckrakers of the Progressive Era”. Article, Students of History. Media Online

“History of Commercial Radio”. Article, Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Media Online

“Beginnings. Excerpt from ‘That’s the Way It Is'”. Charles L. Ponce de Leon, University of Chicago Press Media. Media Online

“The Huntley – Brinkley Report”. Article, Treasure State Lifestyles (Montana). Online

“The most trusted man in America”. Richard Galant, CNN. June 5, 2012. Online

“When the Revolution was Televised”. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic. April 1, 2018

“Attacks on press recall Agnew’s ire”. Theo Lippman Jr, Baltimore Sun. July 9, 2006

“Spiro Agnew and the Des Moines Speech”. Charles Holden, Des Moines Register Media. November 10, 2019

“Spiro Agnew and the corruption defense”. Jonathan P. Baird, Concord Monitor. December 27, 2018

“The Iran Contra Affair 1986-1987”. Larry J. Sabato, Washington Post Special Reports. 1998. Online

“Walter Cronkite, 92, Dies, Trusted Voice of TV News”. Douglas Martin, The New York Times. July 17, 2009

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