A Gallup poll released this morning showed that Americans’ confidence in newspapers has sunk to an all-time low. With the direction so-called “journalism” has gone over the last decade, it’s not surprising. The poll found, among 16 societal institutions Gallup normally tracks, newspapers ranked near the bottom in public confidence–higher only than big business, big labor, HMOs, and Congress.
Throughout history, newspapers have been a staple of American life and a key engine through which we stay connected to the world around us. Now, with fewer than one in four Americans professing confidence in print journalism, it’s time for the newspaper industry to do some soul-searching.
The precipitous decline of confidence in newspapers over the last 40 years correlates with the rise of “infotainment” and the decline in traditional gumshoe journalism. The rise of cable news, the Internet, and most recently, social media, have given Americans more options in how to consume news.. To stay afloat, newspapers have often been forced to shift toward infotainment and away from their core mission of simply reporting the news–rapidly cutting investigative departments and coverage of local government.
Newspapers can’t win back public confidence overnight, but they can take this poll as a wake-up call and recommit to hard-hitting, fact-based journalism. With growing skepticism of government and public institutions, there’s a demand for investigative reporting and, right now, many news papers are failing to capitalize on it.