Jay Rosen, the NYU media guru. takes a look at the $64,000 question: Why is trust of the American media at an all-time low? Rosen's not sure of the answer himself -- he posits several good theories -- and then he throws out his own thinking:
My own sense is that the loss in confidence in the press has to do with professionalization itself. There was something missing or out of alignment in the ideas and ideals that mainstream journalism adopted when it began to think of itself as a profession starting in the 1920s. Whether it was newsroom objectivity, or the View from Nowhere, the production of innocence, the era of omniscience, the Voice of God, or the claim to provide "all the news," whether it was the news tribe understood as a priesthood, monopoly status for metropolitan journalism, the identification with insiders, or an underlying media system that ran one way, in a one-to-many or broadcasting pattern… I don't know. Maybe all those things.
This is a critical question -- not just for journalism but for the American body politic. (Some variations of this came up at the journalistic confab I attended in New York). I have my own thoughts -- which mash-up some of Rosen's topics -- but it's way too long to write up for today.
I would say this about the majority disapproval numbers for the media -- it's very much like the majority disapproval of Obama's health care reform. The "majority" against health care reform is actually a combination of conservatives who think it goes too far (40 percent) and liberals who'd like single-payer and don't think it goes far enough (15 percent). Likewise, majority distrust of the media is a combination of conservatives who think journalists are too liberal (a movement that coalesced from Spiro Agnew in 1970 through the Clinton impeachment era) and liberals who think journalists kowtow to their right-wing critics (Clinton impeachment through the Iraq War to the present).