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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Let’s look at trust in the news media and ‘equal’ coverage

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1925, John T. Scopes was found guilty of violating a Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, bringing the “Monkey Trial” to an end. His conviction was later overturned on a technicality.

🚨 President Biden has tested positive for covid-19. Follow all the latest from the Post here.

The big idea

Let’s look at trust in the news media and ‘equal’ coverage

A pair of surveys about the mainstream news media over the past week or so delivered bracing news about Americans’ trust (or mistrust) in reporters, as well as a curious gap between the public and the press on the question of whether all sides of an issue deserve “equal coverage.”

Both are worth exploring because they raise a lot of questions about the health of America’s news and its republic, as well as the difficult relationship between the people who consume information, notably about politics, and the troubled industry that has traditionally delivered it.

Let’s start with the “trust” question.

  • Trust in mainstream news — television and newspapers, specifically — has fallen again, Gallup told us this week. At this point, there are probably exotic diseases that poll higher than we do, though we can take (extremely) modest comfort that Congress is even less highly regarded.

Just 16 percent of U.S. adults have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers. Things are worse for TV news, at 11 percent. Congress? Eek, 7 percent, according to Gallup polling that found faith in key American institutions has been eroding for years.

Things get a little less bleak if you add “some” confidence — 37 percent say they feel that way toward newspapers, 35 percent about TV. But they get considerably grimmer if you take past Gallup polls showing record-low numbers of Americans trust mainstream media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly while large numbers deem us to be of low ethical character.

The latest Gallup’s polling doesn’t get at the “why” of this erosion, (though Everyone Online Is Sure It Proves Them Right). That makes it harder to have serious conversations about how to win back that trust, which was never all that high to begin with. That’s if it’s even possible to restore it.

Losing ground

In my quarter-century as a reporter, traditional news media have been losing ground in two ways: Medium (the technological means by which information is obtained) and source (the identity of the person or institution from whom the information is obtained).

TV news still commands vast audiences, but go ahead and ask a 20-something “where do you get your news?” And the growth of partisan media, particularly on the right, means “getting news” in 2022 might be synonymous with “get confirmation of prior beliefs.”

  • The news media can do a lot of things wrong — we sometimes trust the wrong sources, make basic factual errors, disregard important stories and perspectives, focus too much on incremental politics, stay stubbornly out of touch with our audience’s daily lives, the list is long.

Q-Anon prophecies have come and gone, unfulfilled, but millions still believe. President Donald Trump generated an unprecedented whirlwind of falsehoods during his four years in office, and his debunked claims of being cheated out of a second term now appear to be an article of faith for millions of Republicans. So “getting it wrong” seems like an incomplete explanation for our predicament.

For an admittedly partial explanation, I might look to Congress. Specifically, look at incumbents’ sky-high rate of reelection. It seems people loathe Congress but are fine with their representative. It seems plausible that people trust where they get their news, but not where people they disagree with get theirs.

That comes with a big caveat. Congress has no competition. Traditional news outlets do.

Equal coverage

Which gets us to the equal coverage question, explored in this survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

More than three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) say journalists should always strive to give all sides equal coverage. But 55 percent of the journalists Pew surveyed said every side does not always deserve equal coverage, a position shared by just 22 percent of Americans.

Younger journalists and those with less time in the industry are more likely to reject the “equal coverage” principle. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely to say journalists should provide equal coverage (87 percent) than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (68 percent).

Americans with low levels of trust in the media are more likely to favor the “equal coverage” aspiration (84 percent) than those with higher levels of faith (66 percent). But both are still solid majorities, and that leaves a chasm between reporters and their audiences.

Where Gallup didn’t give us the “why” of the erosion, Pew didn’t give us a definition for “equal coverage,” so it’s hard to tell whether it’s an exhortation to be fair or an embrace of what has come to be known as “bothsides” coverage that equates things that aren’t close to the same.

That matters quite a bit. Does a performance artist running for president (Vermin Supreme) deserve the same amount of time on a nightly broadcast as the front-runners for the major party nominations? Do climate-change deniers deserve the same column space as scientists? Those are pretty easy “nos.”

There are harder ones.

What’s happening now

Biden tests positive for covid-19

“President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday morning and is experiencing ‘very mild symptoms,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement,” John Wagner, Tyler Pager and Ashley Parker report.

“Jean-Pierre said Biden has begun taking Paxlovid and will isolate at the White House, consistent with CDC guidelines.”

House poised to vote on ensuring access to contraception

“The Right to Contraception Act, sponsored by Rep. Kathy E. Manning (D-N.C.), explicitly allows the use of contraceptives — including oral birth control, injections, implants and morning-after pills — and authorizes the medical community to provide them. Patients and health-care providers can bring civil suits against states that violate the legislation’s provisions,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

A majority thinks Trump is to blame for Jan. 6 but won't face charges, poll finds

“Ahead of a prime-time January 6th Committee hearing Thursday, a majority of Americans are paying attention and blame former President Donald Trump for what happened that day in 2021, but don't think he will be prosecuted, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll,” NPR's Domenico Montanaro reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Secret Service watchdog knew in February that texts had been purged — but didn't tell Congress

“That watchdog agency, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, also prepared in October 2021 to issue a public alert that the Secret Service and other department divisions were stonewalling it on requests for records and texts surrounding the attack on the Capitol, but did not do so, the people briefed on the matter said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal investigations,” Carol D. Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti report.

Watching Japan reckon with a rare shooting, through an American prism

“As I witnessed Japan grapple with the decidedly un-Japanese horror of a gunman’s attack, I realized how much my exposure to gun violence had colored my expectations of a country’s response to a shooting. The muscle memories from U.S. shootings kicked in, but I quickly learned they don’t quite apply on the other end of the spectrum of gun violence — the side where it almost never happens,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee writes.

Elaine Luria prepares to lead Jan. 6 hearing, connect Trump to violence

“Luria is preparing for her most defining moment on the committee yet: At the committee’s finale of this summer’s series of hearings, she and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) will detail what former president Donald Trump did and didn’t do over 187 minutes as the U.S. Capitol was under attack, and as Luria and hundreds of colleagues took cover,” Meagan Flynn and Jacqueline Alemany report.

… and beyond

Why suspected Chinese spy gear remains in America’s telecom networks

“The U.S. is still struggling to complete the break up with Chinese telecom companies that Donald Trump started four years ago,” Politico's John Hendel reports.

“The problem: Small communications networks, largely in rural areas, are saddled with old Chinese equipment they can’t afford to remove and which they can’t repair if it breaks. The companies say they want to ditch the Chinese tech, but promised funds from Congress aren’t coming quickly enough and aren’t enough to cover the cost.”

Americans who can’t afford homes are moving to Europe instead

Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece and France are among the most popular destinations. Sotheby’s International Realty said requests from Americans looking to move to Greece rose 40% in the April-to-June period compared to a year earlier. In France and Italy, US demand is the highest it’s been in at least three years, according to Knight Frank real estate specialist Jack Harris. And Americans made up 12% of Sotheby’s Italian revenue in the first quarter, compared to just 5% in the same period a year ago,” Bloomberg News's Alice Kantor reports.

The latest on covid

How covid-19 symptoms are changing

“The top symptoms of the Omicron COVID-19 variant may differ from symptoms that were common at the start of the pandemic. Omicron may also be less severe than the Delta variant, a study out of the U.K. found,” CBS News's Caitlin O'Kane reports.

People with Omicron often report sore throat and a hoarse voice, which were not as prevalent in Delta cases, a Zoe Health Study found.”

The Biden agenda

Biden had planned to announce police proposals

“Biden had been scheduled to visit Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to lay out a ‘Safer America Plan’ that included expanded law enforcement funding to allow the hiring and training of 100,000 police officers for what the administration calls ‘accountable community policing,’ according to a White House statement and senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement,” Meryl Kornfield reports.

Officials reorganize HHS to boost pandemic response

“The Biden administration is reorganizing the federal health department to create an independent division that would lead the nation’s pandemic response, amid frustrations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Dan Diamond reports.

As heat waves kill thousands, Biden's office for climate health risks is broke

“President Joe Biden, in his first year in office, created an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity within the Health and Human Services Department, to prepare the nation’s health care system to deal with the growing and inevitable health effects of extreme heat, dangerous storms and worsening air pollution. The Biden administration asked Congress for $3 million to staff the office with eight employees, a paltry sum compared to the federal government’s multi-trillion-dollar budget,” NBC News's Josh Lederman reports.

The latest on state abortion laws, visualized

Yesterday, a federal court ruled that the Georgia's six-week ban is allowed to go into effect immediately, Caroline Kitchener, Kevin Schaul, N. Kirkpatrick, Daniela Santamariña and Lauren Tierney report.

Hot on the left

CNN asked all 50 GOP senators if they will support the same-sex marriage bill. Here’s where they stand.

Four Republican senators, so far, have either said they will support or will likely support the House-passed same-sex marriage bill, and that includes: Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (likely) and Thom Tillis of North Carolina (likely),” CNN's Ali Zaslav, Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Morgan Rimmer, Jessica Dean and Kristin Wilson report.

“Eight Republican senators, so far, have indicated they would vote ‘no,’ and oppose the same-sex marriage bill. Sixteen Republican senators, so far, are undecided or did not indicate support for the House-passed bill. Twenty-two Republican senators have yet to respond to CNN’s inquiries.”

Hot on the right

Where does Larry Hogan go from here?

“Wednesday morning was grim in Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s orbit,” Erin Cox reports.

“As he travels the country to test his chances as a presidential contender who could lead the Republican Party in a more inclusive direction, voters in his home state repudiated the pragmatic conservatism Hogan is trying to sell. Instead of electing his handpicked protege, who espoused the themes he cherishes, they handed victory to Del. Dan Cox, a far-right candidate backed by former president Donald Trump whom Hogan labeled 'a QAnon whack job.'

Today in Washington

All of the president's travel has been canceled for at least five days after this morning's news that he has tested positive for covid-19. The White House has not yet sent a new schedule for today but said the president will isolate and join planned meetings virtually.

Biden was scheduled to speak about the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and then head to a DNC fundraiser in Philadelphia today.

At 2 p.m., Jean-Pierre will hold a briefing with White House coronavirus coordinator Ashish Jha.

In closing

Who said what during the Jan. 6 hearings? Take our quiz

“We don’t blame you if you can’t remember who said what over the past six weeks of live testimony and filmed depositions presented by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol,” Hannah Knowles writes.

“Before tonight’s prime-time hearing, which will focus on Trump’s actions during the riot, take our quiz to see if you remember who was behind the most striking quotes so far.”

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.