- The media bubble is real: Study shows massive disconnect between
Journalists and the Public
By Joe Concha
To say there’s a disconnect between many journalists and the public
they serve is a gross understatement, according to a new in-depth
survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
Per Pew, 65 percent of the nearly 12,000 journalists surveyed say the
media do a solid job of “covering the most important stories of the
day” and reporting news accurately. But a solid majority of the
American public at large has the opposite view, with just 35 percent
feeling the same way. That’s a 30-point perception gap.
When asked if journalists perform well when “serving as a watchdog
over elected leaders,” 52 percent of journalists agreed. But the
number dropped precipitously again when the general public was asked,
with less than 3 in 10 agreeing with the assessment.
When asked if journalists manage and correct misinformation
consistently, 43 percent of those in the industry said yes, while just
25 percent of the general public agreed.
Almost half (46 percent) of journalists said they felt connected to
their readers and viewers, while just one-quarter of the public says
they feel connected to the media outlets from which they get their
So why the disconnect? Perhaps it’s like the old saying about the key
to good real estate: Location, location location. Most of the national
media are located in two places: New York City and Washington, D.C.
In the 2020 election, just 9 percent of Manhattan voters voted for
Donald Trump. In D.C., the Trump support was just 5.4 percent,
underscoring that those who live in or near these cities exist in
overwhelmingly liberal silos. It’s only human nature that a
journalist’s perception of issues will generally conform to the places
and people with whom he works and lives. Longtime newsman Bob
Schieffer dove into this subject a few years back, explaining just how
insulated journalists have become.
“In 2004, one reporter in eight lived in New York, Washington, or Los
Angeles,” Schieffer notes in his must-read book ”Overload: Finding the
Truth in Today’s Deluge of News.” “That number is now down to
one-in-five who live in those three places.”
Schieffer saw another problem: The massive decrease of local reporters
due to shrinking budgets.
He writes, “While no solutions seem obvious, there is general
agreement throughout the industry that if local newspapers go away and
some entity does not rise to do what we have come to expect of them —
that is, keep an eye on local government — we will experience
corruption at levels we have never seen.”
Since 2004, approximately 1,800 newspapers have shut down because of
the collapse of print advertising and readers turning to more
convenient online consumption. Fewer reporters and editors has
resulted in less trust as news gathering becomes more and more
confined to two or three cities.
Overall, according to Pew, just 29 percent of U.S. adults say they
have at least a fair amount of trust in the information they receive.
In 1976 in the post-Watergate era, trust in the media stood at 72
percent, or 43 points higher.
A perfect example of the disconnect between certain journalists and
the public came from CNN anchor Don Lemon.
“At CNN, we don’t do opinion, we put the story out there and we try to
stay in the middle of the road,” he claimed on air recently. In a
related story, 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of Trump’s first 100 days
in office was negative, according to a Harvard study, and it somehow
got worse from there.
But during the same segment, Lemon offered this opinion: “There is one
party, right now, that is not operating in fact, that has been
misleading the American people, and that is the Republican Party.” The
host went on to praise the Democratic Party for “standing up for
democracy.” You can’t make this stuff up.
Nothing will change any time soon, either. More and more, local
newspapers are cutting staffs as profits dwindle in the digital age.
The result is that online news organizations almost exclusively
headquartered in deep-blue New York or D.C. keep expanding.
Another finding from the Pew study may be the most revealing: When
asked to characterize the journalism industry in one word, 74 percent
of journalists applied a word with a negative connotation, including
“chaos” and “struggling.” Other words applied included “biased,”
“partisan” and “stressful.” Despite those descriptions, 77 percent of
journalists surveyed say they would choose the same career all over
A 2013 study by University of Indiana journalism professors Lars
Wilnat and David Weaver found that just 7 percent of journalists
identify as Republican. In 2002, that number was 18 percent.
So if you’re a Republican interviewing for a job at The New York
Times, which hasn’t endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in 66
years, or at The Washington Post, which has never endorsed a
Republican presidential candidate, it would probably be a bad idea to
share your party affiliation.
Such is the state of media in 2022, where the bubbles in the Big Apple
and the nation’s capital are increasingly soundproof, shutting out the
rest of the world.
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Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist and a Fox News contributor