Some RealityChek readers have noted (and kind of griped) that I spend a lot of time here attacking the performance of the Mainstream Media (MSM) – and they’re right. This focus stems from two related reasons: First, this performance (as I’ve documented extensively*) has not only been genuinely terrible when it comes to getting facts and their obvious implications straight, but it’s been genuinely terrible in an overwhelmingly pro-globalist vein, including on trade, immigration, and foreign policy issues, and of course on the highest profile of all critics of these views – President Trump.
Second, media performance deserves attention because they’re supposed to play such a crucial watchdog role in our democratic republic. Yet their biases have been so flagrant, and even so deliberate, that these news outlets are no longer serving as a source of reliable, trustworthy information, and consequently keep weakening the foundations of accountable government.
Anyone skeptical should take a look at a new Gallup poll that tries to measure how Americans view the ethics of major occupations. I know that pollsters didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory during the last presidential election, but journalists coming in tenth of the fifteen categories mentioned has “epic fail” written all over it. The only occupations ranking lower? Lawyers, business executives, advertisers, car salesmen (apparently new and used) and Members of Congress. (They came in dead last.)
To be sure, Gallup didn’t single out MSM journalists in its survey, so reporters and editors with a less America First-y outlook, as with many (but by no means all) newspeople in conservative outlets like Fox News were undoubtedly included in the ranks of the mistrusted. But the highly skewed partisan divide reported strongly suggests that it’s the MSM (which, being mainstream, is by definition the media that reach the biggest audiences) that’s got the biggest problem.
If this wasn’t the case, why would only 28 percent of Americans considering themselves political independents give journalists “very high” ratings for ethics and honesty? (The figures for Republicans and Democrats were five percent and 48 percent, respectively.)
It would be great to think that, with Mr. Trump out of public office (if not necessarily the limelight), the MSM might recover some of its integrity. But the timid coverage of apparent president-elect Joe Biden so far, and of the worrisome foreign business dealings of his son, Hunter, don’t justify much optimism.
As Fox News-talker Sean Hannity (not my favorite) complained during the presidential campaign, the MSM in effect put Biden into a “candidate protection program.” If this approach continues into his likely administration, the next Gallup report could show media trustworthiness sinking further – and America’s democratic republic under even greater strain.
*During my long tenure at the U.S. Business and Industry Council (USBIC), I first began going after news coverage of trade and globalization issues (as well as policy decisions and proposals) in 1997 or so in two series of reports sent around by fax called “Globalization Follies” and “Globalization Factline.” Eventually, they were all posted on the organization’s AmericanEconomicAlert.org website. But shortly after I left USBIC, in 2014, the website seemed to have gone dark, and the only decent set of surviving records is in my computer files.