There was a time, not all that long ago, where we would regularly tune in to watch Walter Cronkite, Edward R Murrow, Howard K Smith, Frank Reynolds, John Chancellor, and of course, Huntley and Brinkley for our news. Max Robinson, Roger Mudd, Peter Jennings, Eric Sevareid, or Paul Harvey told us what was happening in the world without coloring it with their personal political opinions.
These were journalists with integrity. They reported the facts without distortion. We counted on them to tell us the truth. When they conducted investigative reports, it was to get to the crux of what was happening, not to push a political agenda or conduct character assassinations. Of course, those days are long gone.
Today, the media divides us instead of bringing us together. The aforementioned poll, conducted by Edelman, a global communications firm, seems to bear that out. According to the poll, in 2020 73% of Democrats trusted the media compared with just 30% of Republicans, because it allegedly leaned Left.
Now, here we are in early 2021, just past one of the most contentious presidential campaigns in recent history, and only 57% of Democrats believe what they are hearing. Interestingly, the "trust" factor rose slightly for Republicans, 18% now believe what they're being told. Meanwhile only 35% of Independents (America's largest political bloc) had zero trust in the media.
The poll went on to say that 80% of those surveyed believed the media distorted the news toward a specific political viewpoint. 54% added that reporters "misrepresented the facts" while 28% thought that the "facts" were made up entirely to justify the political slant of the story!
In delving into the racial divide, 60% of blacks felt that racial and ethnic diversity should be a priority when presenting the news compared to only 35% of whites. 55% of Hispanics feel the media misunderstood them, as did Asians and Native Americans, by reinforcing stereotypes or presenting topics of little or no interest to them.
When we jump to the age divide, only 19% of those under age 30 were favorable of mainstream media. Only 44% of those 65 and older were. So, with so much distrust of mainstream media, where are people turning to for their news?But does that mean they trust social media?
88% thought that social media platforms deliberately influenced the slant of the news. 62% of those surveyed saw that as a problem. How much of a problem? Well, 53% of Democrats and Left leaning Independents saw it as issue affecting the validity of the story. So did 75% of Republicans and conservative Independents.
I would say those are some pretty significant numbers, which means while over half of all adults are getting at least some of their news from social media on a regular basis, although their trust of that source isn't any necessarily better than mainstream media.
What's particularly disconcerting is that while 85% of Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1995) expect to vote, the information they're receiving from social media is often considered to be incomplete, misleading, or outright false, and the same is trending true for Gen Z, the generational demographic just behind the Millennials.
Why is that? Probably because the same major communications companies which own mainstream media also own the social media networks, which means they're peddling the same song and dance, just in a different format. Remember that only six corporations own 96%+ of all media outlets. That includes television and radio stations, newspapers, movie and entertainment companies, video game development, music companies, and social media platforms.
So, which social platforms are getting the most "me time"? Facebook receives about 52% of all hits while YouTube and Twitter ranked second and third with 28% and 17% respectively. LinkedIn (which is more of business oriented site), Reddit, and Snapchat rounded out the top five with under 10% each.
Millennials are the largest demographic since the Babyboomers, so there's no doubt that media corporations are paying attention to them. They want to influence their outlook on the world, and that especially includes politics as well as products.
As a political segment, the majority of Millennials lean Left. About 70% of them want a socialistic America. The few who lean Right, tend to be more of the libertarian variety (small "L"). Over all, neither have any use for either of the two corporate owned party. So, where are they getting their news?
The majority of them (about 54%+) are getting their daily dose of news from social media as well. Most of them have turned off and tuned out mainstream media. The top social media sites for the "Gen Y" crowd is Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. Interestingly (and concerningly), 60% admit they pay attention to celebrities, personalities, and other so-called social media "influencers" to help shape their opinions on events.
The generation coming up behind the Millennials, known as "Gen Z" (born after 1996), are showing themselves to be every bit as Left leaning as their older brothers and sisters; 64% describe themselves as "socialist". 78%+ say that current events are important to them and they want to be informed. However, they too put no trust in the mainstream media, choosing to rely primarily on social media. Of course, all this has created a potentially serious problem, not just for them, but for our society.Television and radio used to bring us together as a society, whether we were listening to Jack Benny or watching Bonanza, we were still getting our news from a small handful of sources, and those were politically impartial. The programming on ABC wasn't all that much different than from NBC or CBS, including the news.
While today there are countless sources for the news, they are all mostly owned by one of six companies and each follow a certain political agenda, even if it's not blatant. They may pretend to be "progressive" to attract a younger audience (and revenue), they remain neo-fascist at their political core.
The media and the political establishment have no intentions of letting the Millennials or Generation Z have their way when it comes to political, but do we really want fascism in any form? At present, it doesn't matter if you pick from "red" unsweetened Kool-Aide or artificially sweetened "blue" Kool-Aid. You still get the Kool-Aide. Some of us, however, have chosen no Kool-Aide at all.
Regardless, those on either side of the political divide are increasingly insulated from each other within a ideological information bubble, thus reducing our ability to communicate and empathize with each other. We're starting to speak a different language.
We must demand that the media once again seek out the highest common good as it once did. Divided we're easier to control and manipulate. That's the name of the game in any authoritarian regime. Ours is no different. Did we really expect it would be? Perhaps our loss of trust in the media is justified, but what about our faith in each other? We must never lose that.