Is US Mainstream Media Dead?

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I was looking at some new Gallup poll data and had a thought about which people truly trust mainstream media still.

I do believe a seismic shift in media is occurring and has been for over a decade. In very simple terms it seems the trust in mainstream media is dying while there is a growing trust in independent and alternative media.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of problems in alternative media as well, but I think people are willing to take their chances listening to alt voices given there isn’t much of a reason to solely rely on a consistently wrong, tightly controlled, and narrow-minded mainstream media.

Here’s a bit of interesting data.

The chart below indicates the level of trust in TV news and newspapers in the United States. This is Gallup data, and I imagine similar trends occur around the world. I will get to that shortly.

About 15% or so actually have ‘a great deal or quite a lot’ of trust in TV news and newspapers.

Then I noticed these statistics about political identity in the US that came out from Gallup as well:

Overall, 35% of Americans described their political outlook as moderate, followed by conservative (27%) and liberal (18%). About the same percentage identified as “very conservative” and “very liberal” (9% and 8%, respectively). These numbers have remained largely steady since 2015, according to the pollster.

Simply:

Roughy 15% of the total population has a good deal of trust in TV news and newspapers.

Roughly 15% of the population identifies very ideologically strongly as Democrat or Republican.

Is it possible that the US’ highly ideological entertainment style news is basically only drawing a lot of trust from the people who feel like they are watching their favorite sports team when they turn on the news?

It seems to be the case. And after all, doesn’t the media business model cater to this to some extent?

I imagine the rest of the people in the country have some semblance of balance and open mindedness in their being and can see through the nonsense that is FOX, MSNBC, CNN, and so on, thus leaving them with moderate trust or none at all.

Vote on our Substack poll.

Further Thoughts

You might be shocked to learn only 9% of people are “very conservative” and only 8% are “very liberal,” it often feels like those mobs make up huge numbers of people. But this is the social media game at work.

Social media is designed to promote outrage, polarity and drama. Virality that comes from this design suggests you are drowning in crazy people, when in reality it’s a very loud minority.

But this is how social media profits best, and the same can be said for news media in general. (Listen to my podcast episode about this here.)

This also means that most people are in the “moveable middle.” This is good news because it means that providing GOOD media quality with a foundation of GOOD sensemaking and steering clear of ideological bias will result in societal improvement.

For kicks, the following findings are from a different type of survey out of Canada but adds to what’s going on in the bigger picture.

  • 49 per cent of Canadians surveyed agree that journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations (emphasis mine). 
  • 52 per cent agree that most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.
  • 52 per cent of Canadians agree the media is not doing well at being objective and non-partisan.

What do you think? What is going on with the way humanity is perceiving media across the board? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Dive Deeper

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