If you’ll pardon me for a moment, I have a rant I need to get off my chest.

Gallup recently released the results of its annual poll regarding Americans’ confidence in the news media. The results … well, as the headline on the Gallup website says, “Media Confidence Ratings at Record Lows.” As for the specifics:

Gallup has tracked Americans’ confidence in newspapers since 1973 and television news since 1993 as part of its annual polling about major U.S. institutions. The latest readings are from a June 1-20 poll that saw declines in confidence ratings for 11 of the 16 institutions measured and no improvements for any.

Television news and newspapers rank nearly at the bottom of that list of institutions, with only Congress garnering less confidence from the public than TV news. While these two news institutions have never earned high confidence ratings, they have fallen in the rankings in recent years.

A majority of Americans have expressed confidence in newspapers only once—in 1979, when 51% did. But there is a wide margin between that and the second-highest readings of 39% in 1973 and 1990. The trend average for newspapers is 30%, well above the latest reading of 16%, which is the first time the measure has fallen below 20%. The percentage of Americans who say they have “very little” or volunteer that they have no confidence is currently the highest on record, at 46%.

As I write this, I am in Chicago, at the annual conference for the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN). (Full disclosure: I serve on the AAN board of directors as the vice president.) I’ve been coming to these conferences for more than two decades, as the industry has gradually gotten smaller and smaller. While these conferences have changed over the years, one thing has remained constant: The vast majority of people who work at newspapers like the Independent aren’t doing so for the money. There’s doing so because they believe in the power of journalism, and because they love their communities.

Very, very few people here could be described as affluent. And far more people at AAN publications would like to be here at this conference—but they can’t afford the trip.

Meanwhile, some politicians—mostly Republicans—have been tweeting out these poll results with glee. While newspapers aren’t blameless here, these low ratings are, in large part, the fault of these same tweeting politicians: They’ve repeatedly bashed newspapers and the news media—with Donald Trump going as far as to call journalists the “enemy of the people”—in part because hard-working journalists have exposed their wrongdoing, or pointing out their shortcomings.

American democracy is broken … and if people don’t trust legitimate journalists, the situation is only going to get worse.

Note: This is a slightly edited version of the editor’s note that appeared in the August 2022 print edition. Much of this column was originally published online in the July 21 Indy Digest.

Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...

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2 Comments

  1. You can’t blame the politicians. They’re in the business of lying. Blame the newspapers and news media for publishing lies, false information and specializing in sensationalism and falsehoods just to sell. That’s why I stopped buying them years ago, and now filter everything I read, comparing sources and searching for the most credible. Frankly, those are gone.

    1. You are entitled to your incorrect opinion, Digna. Newspapers are not blameless here, but to say that there are no more credible newspapers is completely insane.

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