And now for today's least shocking statistic: Just four in 10 Americans say they have a "great deal" or a "fair amount" of trust in the media to report the news fairly and accurately, according to new data from Gallup. That matches historic lows the media also "achieved" in 2012 and 2014.
And while Republicans trust the media less than Democrats do, the numbers across all party affiliations are in rapid decline from even a decade ago.
There's little evidence that the whole trusting-the-media thing is going to get more popular; people under 50 years old are far more skeptical of the idea of media as fair arbiters than those over 50.
GOOD!, some of you will, undoubtedly shout -- particularly if you are either a conservative Republican or liberal Democrat. You deserve what you get! Your years of lies and agenda-pushing have finally caught up to you. WE ARE ON TO YOU.
To which I say: Wrong.
I don't say that to be a jerk. I understand that many people who feel passionately about the rightness of one party or the other (and plenty of people who don't) are simply convinced that the media is pursuing some sort of narrative that somehow furthers our collective "goals." (If you were in the media, you would know we aren't even close to organized enough to orchestrate such a grand plan. But I digress.) And I will grant that, like in any industry, there are some bad apples and some high-profile mistakes that people seize on as evidence that their pet theory of the media (too liberal/ too conservative) is correct.
But, I believe really strongly that the decline in trust in the media is primarily attributable to partisans -- whether in politics or in the media -- who have a vested interest in casting the press as hopelessly biased. What better way for liberal or conservative talk radio to (a) lure listeners and (b) stoke outrage than to insist that the mainstream media is lying to you? What better way for politicians to raise money from partisans already skeptical about the media than to say the media isn't telling the truth?
The rise of outside partisan groups -- on the left and the right -- has coincided with a bumper crop of partisan-first media outlets designed to foment rage and exasperation with the mainstream media's alleged missteps. It's good business for them -- and just plain terrible for the American public.
The belief -- pushed by these groups and outlets -- that there are no referees (or even rules) in all of this makes disagreeing without being disagreeable is virtually impossible. The idea of reasonable people disagreeing has also been laid to rest or damn near it. The realities of our modern political dialogue -- if you can use that word to describe it -- is that people who disagree with your point of view are at best dumb and at worst purposely misunderstanding things. From those conclusions about motive, nothing positive can come.
You can think the media thinks too highly of itself. (We do.) You can ask who appointed us the refs. (Fair.) And, you can be skeptical -- in fact, you should be skeptical -- of something being reported that smells fishy to you. (We, as humans, can and do get stuff wrong.) But what you should not wish for is that the mainstream media disappear or be rendered irrelevant.
Whether you like or agree with an independent media all the time -- breaking news: you won't! -- you should value an entity that does its best to hold those in power accountable. Without such a force, you would like society a whole lot less. And our society would be a whole lot less.