Most Americans think press coverage is biased and negative, but say they respect journalists and trust what they read and hear.
A national survey conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism’s Center for Advanced Social Research found that 62 percent consider journalism credible, and more than half rated newspapers and television news as trustworthy.
But 85 percent say they detect a bias in reporting. Of those, 48 percent identified the bias as liberal, 30 percent as conservative, 12 percent as both and 3 percent as “other.”
About two-thirds say journalists invade people’s privacy too often, and about three-quarters say the news is too negative.
“The consumers of American journalism respect, value and need it, but they’re also skeptical about whether journalists really live up to the standards of accuracy, fairness and respect for others that we profess,” says George Kennedy, a Missouri journalism professor and co-author of a study that incorporates the survey results.
The survey found that Americans strongly support the investigative or watchdog role of the press, with 83 percent saying it is important for journalists to push for access to information even when government officials would like to keep it quiet.
But there also was plenty of criticism. Among the poll’s findings:
58 percent say journalists have too much influence over what happens in the world.
74 percent say reporters tend to favor one side over the other when covering political and social issues.
About half say the press tends to exaggerate problems or is too sensational in its coverage.
77 percent say they think a news story is sometimes killed or buried if it is embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a press organization.
The survey polled 495 adults during June and July 2004 and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.