- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

Americans continue to be troubled about the state of the press. But journalists themselves are troubled as well, according to “The State of the News Media 2006,” a massive series of surveys and analyses released yesterday by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a research group affiliated with Columbia University.

Local TV news and local newspapers won the most accolades from the public. Both were rated favorably by three-quarters of the respondents with majorities agreeing that local news organizations concentrated on facts rather than opinions. Such major dailies as the New York Times did not fare so well, garnering a 38 percent favorability rating.

Overall, the public increasingly sees their press as “slanted,” with 72 percent thinking the press favored one side or other, according to a poll of 1,464 adults. The number is up from 66 percent two years earlier. About 60 percent found the press politically biased, up from 53 percent.

“Republicans and conservatives are even more prone to feel this way than Democrats,” the survey stated.

It found that the percentage of the public who think press criticism of the military weakens the country is at its highest point — 47 percent — in two decades. Although 60 percent of the public approve of the press in a watchdog role over politicians, just 43 percent say the national press is moral.

The researchers found a “values gap on social issues.” In a survey of 547 journalists, 6 percent felt that belief in God is necessary to be moral; the figure was 58 percent among the general public. About 88 percent of the press, compared with 51 percent of the public, think society should accept homosexuality.

An ideological divide between the national press and the public also persists. The survey found that 20 percent of the public described themselves as liberal; the figure was 34 percent among journalists. Although 33 percent of the public deemed themselves conservative; 7 percent of the press members identified themselves as conservative. The majority of journalists — 54 percent — say they are moderates, compared with 41 percent of the public.

“Most liberals don’t see a liberal point of view,” the researchers said, noting that fewer than a quarter of the liberal journalists could think of a news organization that was “especially” liberal; 79 percent could name a conservative news outlet. Among the conservative journalists, 68 percent could name an especially liberal news organization and 68 percent could name an especially conservative one.

Meanwhile, 55 percent of both print and broadcast journalists from national news organizations say the coverage of the Bush administration has not been critical enough in recent years.

“News people are not confident about the future of journalism,” the researchers said, noting that 51 percent think journalism is going in the “wrong direction” for myriad reasons.

The entire poll can be viewed at www.stateofthenewsmedia.com.