Schuh Column: In Defense of Journalists
By Jim Schuh
I feel an obligation to do my part to defend journalists, especially those working close to home.
In my years as a broadcaster and newspaper columnist, I’ve never run into local reporters who disseminate “fake news.” That’s not to say we don’t occasionally make mistakes, but in my experience, when that happens, reporters strive to make corrections quickly.
I can’t speak for reporters at the national level, but I’d like to believe that there aren’t many who deliver “fake news.” Still, lots of people think there are.
A few points here – we shouldn’t confuse reporters with commentators – partisans who deliver opinions, sometimes disguised as news. We should remember some politicians label as “fake news” news stories they don’t like. And repeating claims of “fake news” over and over can make some believe those assertions are true even when they aren’t. We also should remember that partisan viewers or readers often wear blinders when it comes to believing objective news.
The Hill released a poll last week showing about six in ten think reporters form conclusions about the news too rapidly and don’t validate it. Skepticism in national media’s always been high, but the president’s frequent bashing of media has increased it, says The Hill.
Surveys over the years have shown news consumers tend to believe local reporters are more objective and report news more accurately than their brethren at the national level. It may be that local reporters are accessible, and people may know or be friends or neighbors with them, so they trust them more.
Not long ago, the Hollywood Reporter Morning Consult published a survey on network hosts we trust. Lester Holt of NBC topped the poll, trusted “a lot” by 32 percent of the respondents and “some” by another 30 percent. In second place was CNN’s Anderson Cooper with ABC’s David Muir third. Robin Roberts of ABC followed, with Harris Faulkner of Fox News next. Others included Brian Williams of MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell of NBC/MSNBC, George Stephanopoulos of ABC, Chris Wallace of FOX News, Gayle King of CBS and Craig Melvin of NBC/MSNBC.
The survey didn’t stop there – it also identified the least-trusted.
Topping that list was Sean Hannity of FOX News, followed in order by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Don Lemon of CNN, Mika Brzezinski, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough, all of MSNBC, Tucker Carlson of FOX News, Chris Cuomo of CNN, Laura Ingraham of FOX News and Anderson Cooper of CNN.
Cooper’s the only one to make both lists – ranking second among most-trusted and tenth among least-trusted. All in the least-trusted category work for cable news outlets and most are commentators who express political opinions rather that offer straight news.
In a related item, a poll of 2,000 people for Hearst Television found that local television remains the most trusted source of news and information for most people. 73 percent of news consumers between the ages of 18 and 49 trust at least one TV station as a news source in their market.
TV stations strive to become members of the community and that’s what gives them trust. By way of contrast, just 17 percent of social-media users rate those sites trustworthy.
Speaking of trust, Americans’ trust in government has hit a new low – The Gallup Poll says just 35 percent have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the government’s ability to deal with domestic issues and only 41 percent trust the government in international affairs.
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has the world’s first news anchors powered by artificial intelligence. Visually, they’re nearly indistinguishable from human news anchors, and these robots tell their audience whatever is fed to them. Talk about “fake news.”
Funny names for serious awards: The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council (FOIC) works to protect access to public meetings and records. Each year, the council confers awards for Openness on Government and calls them “Opees.” There are six categories of “Opees” – five with humorous titles.
The “Popee” (political openness award) recognizes “extraordinary service to the cause of open government by an elected or appointed official, agency, or group of officials.”
The “Mopee” (media openness award) “recognizes extraordinary service to the cause of open government by a media member or organization.”
Then there’s the “Copee” (citizen openness award). It recognizes “extraordinary service to the cause of open government by a member of the public or public group.”
The “Scoopee” (open records scoop of the year) is “for a journalist or media organization who (which) has used public records to highlight an issue or expose wrongdoing.”
The “Nopee” (no friend of openness) is “for an individual or institution who (which) has disregarded or denigrated the state’s traditions of openness.”
Finally, the “Whistleblower of the Year” recognizes someone who’s come forward to help expose wrongdoing.
The FOIC is now taking nominations for each of the awards.
Perhaps the FOIC should add a “Dopee” award for Washingtonians who accuse media on a blanket basis of disseminating “fake news.”