I really wish I could sit here and write that I believed the mainstream media were finally getting around to understanding the reasons why a majority of people in this country don’t trust them, but unfortunately, after all this time and the countless pieces written and discussions/debates had over the matter with volumes of receipts brought to the table to make the case, they still just don’t get it.
As a case in point, I present to you the most recent “analysis” piece done by CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, who once infamously (and hilariously) declared that “Reporters don’t root for a side. Period.” In it, he blames the major decline in trust in the national media over the last 5 years among Republicans on former President Donald Trump. First, the numbers:
In the piece, Cillizza argues that Trump’s “most lasting, damaging legacy” was his war on the media and how he supposedly poisoned so many minds against them:
That precipitous decline is directly attributable to a nonstop — and largely one-way — attack on the idea of the media and, even more broadly, capital “T” truth.
Remember that Trump told us exactly what he was up to back in 2018, speaking to a VFW gathering. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump told the crowd. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
What’s missing from Cillizza’s “analysis”? A few key things, with the biggest one being the fact that Cillizza failed to assign any blame at all to the media itself for the lasting damage they’d done to their own industry over the last several years by pushing one fake news story after another, many of which were specifically designed to take Republicans – especially Trump – down, with the Russia collusion nonsense being the biggest and most notorious example of a deliberate media campaign to oust a President they didn’t like by any means necessary.
What’s also missing from Cillizza’s write-up are the other numbers from that Pew survey, which are also extremely relevant to this discussion.
While Republicans went from 70% to 35% in terms of having “a lot” or “some” trust in national media organizations, there was also a big, noticeable drop in trust among independents, too. That went from 76% to 58%, a nearly-20 point drop. Not surprisingly, trust among Democrats only dropped by 5%, from 83% to 78%.
Can we blame Donald Trump for that near-20% drop in trust among independents? Last I checked, they weren’t devoted Trump partisans.
In addition to all that, Cillizza failed to note that though trust among Republicans in local news media outlets is dropping, it still remains high. It went from 79% in 2016 to 66% now. That tells you that Republicans still do trust the media, just not the national media (and for good reason, there are countless examples as to why they shouldn’t be trusted).
While I have my own ongoing issues with some local news outlets here in this state (looking at you, Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer) on balance I trust the local and state press far more than I trust national outlets like the WaPo, CNN, and the New York Times. Local news outlets are far more accountable to the community primarily because they have to interact with them on a daily basis on social media and in person. National news outlets aren’t the same in that regard. They operate in a bubble, and their reporting, sadly, reflects that.
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet admitted as much three years ago:
“I would be lying if I did not say that a newsroom that is largely built in Manhattan does not have liberal leanings in the lifestyles and attitudes of its employees. That would be nuts if I said that,” Baquet said.
What Trump did during the course of his presidency was to amplify the issues that Republicans (including himself) already had with the national media, problems that became much worse during his time in office (which he also raised hell over). In other words, the only mistrust Trump sowed was mistrust that was already there, which dropped precipitously thanks in no small part to the “scandal a day” reporting from the press on supposed “blockbuster” stories that were going to finish Trump’s presidency, but most of which turned out to be nothingburgers in the scheme of things.
The irony here is that in Cillizza’s analysis in which he puts total blame on Trump and none on the press for the drop in trust over the last few years, he demonstrated the very bias that conservatives so often complain about, first by assuming that most conservatives blindly believe whatever Trump says and secondly by not spending even five seconds acknowledging the media has brought a lot of this on themselves.
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