- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

The public is plenty vexed by the press.

A Gallup poll released yesterday finds that the public’s trust in the press has reached its lowest point in three decades. Only 9 percent of those surveyed said they had a “great deal” of confidence that news was reported fully, accurately and fairly in print and broadcast outlets.

An additional 39 percent said they had little confidence, and 16 percent said they had “none at all.” Some were more tolerant: 35 percent said they had “a fair amount” of trust.

Concerns about a dicey press crossed ideological lines.

“Even liberals can be critical of the media’s reliability,” noted Mark Gillespie of the Gallup News Service yesterday.

The survey found that 52 percent of liberals expressed “little or no confidence” in the news coverage; 60 percent of conservatives echoed the sentiment.

The poll of 1,022 adults was conducted Sept. 13 to 15 — smack in the middle of the CBS memos scandal. The survey was completed, however, before CBS acknowledged wrongdoing on Sept. 21.

“Clearly, something has happened to shake public confidence in the media, but whether that ‘something’ is the recent CBS controversy is a matter of speculation,” Mr. Gillespie said.

He reasoned that if CBS were the sole “culprit,” a disproportionately large number of Republicans would report a drop in confidence. But trust is down across the board.

The poll found that 31 percent of Republicans said they trusted the press, a drop of 13 points in a year. The figure stood at 44 percent among Democrats and 59 percent among independents, a drop of nine and seven points, respectively.

Meanwhile, the poll sniffed out liberal bias: 48 percent of Americans perceived the press as “too liberal”; 15 percent felt it was too conservative. A third felt coverage was “just right.”

Among liberals, 49 percent said the press was “just right,” 37 percent felt it was too conservative and 11 percent deemed it too liberal.

Among conservatives, 74 percent said the press was too liberal, 19 percent “just right” and 6 percent too conservative.

Meanwhile, CBS News is struggling. Since the controversy began Sept. 8, ratings of the network’s evening news have fallen by 10 percent compared with a year ago, according to the Nielsen service. In the New York City market, ratings fell in the past week by 49 percent, according to an analysis by the New York Post yesterday.

The public also is taking umbrage,

“Stations are being hammered, and we are taking a beating,” a Virginia-based CBS affiliate told Variety this week.

The stations are receiving angry phone calls and e-mails; there has been a noticeable drop in advertising revenues; and there was a picket line outside an Ohio television station.

Radio stations have been affected as well. WNIS-AM in Norfolk announced yesterday that it no longer will air CBS News reports, joining Houston-based KPRC, which pulled the CBS afternoon news summary earlier this week.

“The outrage from our listeners has been deafening,” said WNIS Operations Manager Dave Morgan yesterday.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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