Ask members of the press whether Rush Limbaugh and Bob Woodward are journalists and the answers are somewhat predictable.
But the public has a different view. About the same percentage considers the radio talk show host and the author and Washington Post editor to be journalists, says a survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center released yesterday.
The numbers: 27 percent say Limbaugh is a journalist, 55 percent say he's not and 18 percent don't know. Woodward may lag in the name-ID department: 30 percent say he's a journalist, 17 percent say he's not and 53 percent don't know. The survey of 1,500 adults was completed before the recent revelation of Deep Throat's identity.
A separate survey of 673 journalists produced very different results. For Woodward, 72 percent say he's "very close" to a journalist and 21 percent "somewhat close." For Limbaugh, 1 percent say he's "very close" to a journalist, 2 percent "somewhat close" and 82 percent "not close at all."
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the center's director, said the findings provide "disturbing evidence that the public defines the word very differently from the way that most journalists do, a conclusion buttressed by the fact that 40 percent said Bill O'Reilly . . . was a journalist and only 19 percent said that George Will, the columnist and commentator, was one."
Limbaugh said he was "not really surprised" by the survey. "I am America's anchorman, doing news play-by-play 15 hours a week for nearly 17 years now, and this is just more evidence that the old media's monopoly-like dominance is finished. I think the 'mainstream' media should heed Ms. Jamieson's warning and seriously examine how they appear to their readers and viewers."
Television stars tended to score the highest, suggesting that name recognition may be a factor in the results. Peter Jennings is deemed a journalist by 79 percent of the respondents, followed by Mike Wallace (64 percent), Katie Couric (48 percent), Brian Williams (42 percent), O'Reilly, Larry King (37 percent), Chris Matthews (33 percent), Woodward, Limbaugh and Will.
The Annenberg poll also found a split on the perceived goals of big media corporations. While 48 percent of the public said their first priority is to generate high profits for the owners, 46 percent said it is to deliver high-quality news coverage. Among journalists, only 12 percent said the top priority of corporate owners is to provide factual and timely coverage. Forty-nine percent say that the owners do try to provide quality coverage but that business realities sometimes prevent this from happening.