The Pitiful State of America’s News Media

Every day, a new political poll materializes, telling us which presidential candidate is leading in which state, county, or even city. Other polls tell us which candidate is leading nationally or who is leading with a particular group of voters: black, Hispanic, Asian, white, etc.

I’m weary of polls like those.

However, I don’t get tired of polls that examine what Americans think of the news media—that is, newspapers, television cable networks, radio, magazines, and various press services.

I’m partial to those polls mainly because I spent almost 30 years as a newspaper reporter, foreign correspondent, and editor with the Chicago Tribune. I was proud to be a journalist. I witnessed and covered several history-making events and even won a few awards–though that was never what motivated me. It was a job I loved.

Most of all, I believed it was important that I was somewhere witnessing an incident or event because had I not been there, the world might never have known what had occurred or why.

There were times when I was covering an important story when I thought, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this job. Sometimes I feel like I am stealing money.”

Of course, there were those times when I was covering a war or a revolution that I thought to myself, “They aren’t paying me enough.”

But let’s get back to those polls about the news media. They are almost all negative, and for good reason. To say I am disappointed in what polls say about public trust in the media would be a big understatement.

For example, a recent Gallup poll found that Americans’ trust in mass media to report “fully, accurately, and fairly” is the lowest Gallup has ever recorded.

The results show that only 7% of Americans have “a great deal” of trust and confidence in the media, while 25% say they have “a fair amount” of trust in mass media.

Twenty-eight percent of U.S. adults surveyed in the poll say they “lack confidence” in the media. However, the most striking result is that 38% of Americans do not trust our news media at all.

That means that 66 percent of Americans–fully two-thirds of the nation–have little or no trust in the American press.

This Gallup poll is the first time the percentage of Americans with no trust in the media (38 percent) is higher than that of respondents with a great deal or fair amount of trust combined (32 percent).

Here is the question put to a random sample of adults aged 18 and older living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia:

“In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media—such as newspapers, TV, and radio—when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly—a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?”

Gallup has been asking this question since 1972. Interestingly, in 1976, 72 percent of Americans trusted the news media to present news unbiasedly and accurately.

You could argue that those were the halcyon days of journalism—a kind of golden era. No more. Instead, the poll reveals a 40 percent decline in Americans’ trust in the news media in the past 48 years.

So what is going on? Why the 40 percent plunge?

The answer is simple.

America’s news media have moved consistently to the left of center and now see themselves as exponents and defenders of political agendas that reflect liberal or far-left viewpoints.

Reporters today also have much more leeway to insert their political beliefs and shared values into news stories. Fewer newsroom editors and producers demand at least a semblance of balance and fairness in the stories reporters turn in.

Too many journalists see themselves as advocates for specific political dogmas and societal attitudes that they identify with or support rather than as objective witnesses.

Why is this the case? What’s going on?

Okay, here’s where I’m allowing myself to sound like an old-guard journalist from the green eyeshade era when reporters’ desks were populated with typewriters. It was an era when telephones had cords, and computers had yet to take possession of newsrooms.

I am proud of that old-guard appellation. When I entered the world of journalism right out of college back in 1970 as a general assignment reporter for the Chicago Tribune (what a break THAT was), the concept of objectivity was not considered some quaint, outdated notion that was impossible to attain and, therefore, could be ignored.

You couldn’t get away with inserting your political or social beliefs into any story you turned into the Tribune’s City Desk. If you did, a cranky old-school City Editor would yell at you and chuck the story back at you.

“Yates, you can’t write that kind of biased stuff in the Tribune,” he would bellow. “Leave your opinions at home. Our readers don’t give a rat’s ass what you think.”

It only took one or two tongue lashings like that for me to adjust my behavior. Any notion I had of incorporating my political perspective or my attitudes about social issues in a news story quickly faded.

Where are those tough editors today? Sadly, they are few and far between, and the result is a world in which reporters feel they have a right and duty to inflict their predominately leftist opinions on readers, viewers, and listeners.

        Chicago Tribune Newsroom ca. 1971

It is not just what is inserted into a news story that can make it unfair and unbalanced. Often, it is what is left out—the bias of omission.

For example, consider how the legacy media handled the Hunter laptop story in 2020. They ignored it, or if they mentioned it at all, they called it “Russian disinformation.” Today, we know those 51 so-called intelligence operatives lied when they said in their infamous letter that the laptop story was Russian disinformation.

More recently, think about how a majority of the media made a collective decision to ignore Joe Biden’s declining mental and physical condition. News outlets that dared report on it or showed videos of a befuddled Biden stammering, falling, or shuffling were accused of perpetuating “cheap fakes.”

Don’t believe your lying eyes, White House mouthpiece Karine Jean-Pierre admonished reporters during her vacuous and insipid press briefings. Right-wing media are trying to embarrass and undermine the president.

Then came THE DEBATE. As millions of Americans looked on, they saw a muddled and bemused man unable to utter complete sentences. At several points, he appeared to freeze up. It was not only embarrassing but frightening. This, after all, is the man charged with protecting America and its citizens.

This was the leader of the free world, and he couldn’t think or talk. This was Joe Biden without the assistance of a teleprompter or a collection of note cards telling him how to answer questions.

U.S. President Joe Biden looks down at his podium during a debate.
Biden was befuddled and confused during the presidential debate

This was also the bewildered Joe Biden that millions of Americans had been watching for three and a half years but who were told by leftist talking heads on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and once-great newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times not to worry because Joe Biden was sharp as a clichéd tack.

That was the mendacious media gaslighting us. They were committing bias of omission by covering up Joe Biden’s physical and cognitive decline since he stumbled into the White House in 2021.

That was our so-called “independent” media obeying the implicit commands from the doyens of the Democrat Party to prop up good ole Joe.

Because if they didn’t, guess who might triumphantly return to the White House? Yep, the 21st-century manifestation of Adolf Hitler himself, Donald Trump.

The end justifies the means. So, don’t worry about producing stories that omit critical information or contain fabrications and half-truths. As loyal Democrats (and 90 percent of those in the media are), you must do your duty to destroy Donald Trump.

To hell with journalistic ethics or unbiased and honest reporting; we cannot allow the “dictator” to assume executive branch power. You need to help Joe Biden put Trump in prison.

Don’t think of producing anti-Trump stories that are filled with fabrications and defamations as deceitful journalism. Your job is to save America from Donald Trump. Your job is to support the Democrat Party and to ensure one-party rule for the foreseeable future.

The legacy media did precisely as they were directed.

The result is that today, consumers of newspapers, network news, and cable news know that most of our media are producing socialist propaganda, not unfiltered and unbiased news. There is no pretense of an “objectivity norm.”

Of course,  it may be that the viewing and reading public doesn’t care if stories are slanted and biased as long as they are slanted and biased in the direction they lean, left or right.

I hope that is not the case. If professional journalists and news organizations can not provide unbiased news that helps a citizenry make informed choices and decisions, I fear our democracy is on a slippery slope to socialism or, worse–the Democrat Party’s brand of communism.

When America’s news media and social media platforms suppress and censor stories that are unfavorable to the ruling elite or the political party they support, they are not only abrogating their responsibility to the public they are supposed to serve; they are intentionally subverting freedom of the press and speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

As I observe the media landscape today, I am ashamed of the craft I once loved and respected. (Some call it a profession—but then, so is prostitution).

Those cherished ideals I carried throughout my career seem as quaint and gratuitous as typewriters and telex machines today.

So, I ask you: is journalism dead in America? Or is it simply in a coma?

I hope for all our sakes that the latter is true. Because if journalism is comatose, it is always possible to wake up and begin behaving as it should—covering news honestly and fairly without fear or favor.

I am not holding my breath.


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About Ronald E. Yates

Ronald E. Yates is an award-winning author of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. Read More About Ron Here

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