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Americans’ Trust in Media Declines For Third Consecutive Year, Differs Along Party Lines, Reports Knight Foundation

Jericho Casper

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Screenshot of NPR Journalist Lulu Garcia-Navarro from the Knight Foundation webcast

August 6, 2020 — While Americans still value the media’s traditional role in society, a new report found that trust in media has continued to decline over the past two years.

The Knight Foundation, in partnership with Gallup, polled over 20,000 U.S. adults to publish “American Views 2020: Trust, Media, and Democracy,” a report offering new insight into Americans’ evolving relationship with media.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro, a journalist at NPR, joined Sam Gill, senior vice president of the Knight Foundation, in a conversation on Wednesday to address the decline in trust of journalism.

“Information is coming at us all the time,” Garcia-Navarro said, adding that there is often “little understanding where it’s coming from and who is providing it.”

Garcia-Navarro argued that there were legitimate reasons for Americans to feel mistrust, and suggested that President Donald Trump’s continual accusations of ‘fake news’ make more of an impression on people than they may believe.

Trump’s framing of the media as an entity that is somehow against the government and the people has led to increased distrust, she said.

The consequences of this misinformation are reflected in the report, which found that party affiliation remains the key predictor of Americans’ attitudes towards the news media.

Nearly three-fourths of Republicans have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of the news media, compared to 22 percent of Democrats.

Garcia-Navarro and Gill agreed that funding local journalism plays a key role in rebuilding the trust between American’s and news media, as it encourages political and civic engagement.

Local newspapers, which have traditionally fed the news ecosystem, are currently struggling.

Advertising revenue, which traditionally fueled print media, has moved to digital behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Between 2004 and 2014, newspapers lost $30 billion in print ad revenue, according to a study conducted by the Newspaper Association of America and Pew Research Center.

As a result, newspapers around the country have been downsizing and closing for years.

“There are news deserts all over the country,” Garcia-Navarro said.

One possible solution, Garcia-Navarro continued, could be an oversight program requiring Google and Facebook to devote a portion of their digital ad revenue to funding nationwide local journalism initiatives.

The most important part of being a journalist is “amplifying the voices of real people,” Garcia-Navarro said, noting that she aims to make the public front and center on her radio shows.

“We are of the people and working for the people,” she said.

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