We wanted to know how much you, our readers, trusted the news media. And you sure had thoughts. In just three days, more than 2,000 of you answered our survey, sending us your (strong) opinions.
The responses came from all around Minnesota and from your winter homes (or new homes) in Arizona, California and Florida. One respondent even left a German postal code.
The key question we asked was how you decide which news sources are credible. Your answers ranged from critical to glowing. Some were harsh; others were funny. But most of you took the time to give thoughtful and heartfelt answers. And about half of you indicated that you’d be willing to meet up and talk with us further about trust and the media. Meeting with hundreds of people wasn’t possible, but we did have productive one-on-one discussions with some of you. Thank you!
Here are some highlights from your written responses.
From John: “I appreciate a fair debate with opposing views. [Take] the high road. No verbal bomb throwers.”
From Monica: “You need to read multiple news sources. ... I have no expectation that any one news source will be totally accurate 100 percent of the time. ... News should encourage people to think and talk to others, not tell us what to think.”
From Andrew: “Most issues are much broader than typical Republican/Democrat divides. ... Getting two partisan hacks with a D and R next to their name doesn’t qualify as diversity of perspective.”
From Kathleen: “[Some news sources] seem so reactive to the latest outrage that it seems they have no grounding or identity or integrity. I’m longing for some of that to return and think that it is essential for the survival of our civil society and our republic.”
From Sigrid: “People need to stop being hysterical – particularly journalists. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Your role in shaping public feeling is critical to the health and unity of our nation.”
Those are some of the written highlights, but what do the raw poll numbers say, you ask? Take a deep breath: This survey was unscientific. For example, respondents could submit as many responses as they wanted. Here’s a special shout-out to Ray, who submitted almost 20 identical responses over an eight-hour period, and to Ryan, who submitted 41 identical responses over 18 hours. (Fear not, guys: Plenty of middle-aged white men took the survey. Thank you both for using identical responses so your duplicates could be easily weeded out.)
This survey was intended to start a conversation with a smaller group of interested readers and to give us a sense of what some of our readers were feeling. Readers were asked how likely they were to trust mainstream journalism organizations on a four-point scale (from “very unlikely – 1” to “very likely – 4”) and how many news organizations they support financially.
Among respondents, those who self-identified as “liberal” or “very liberal” were the most likely to trust news media and to support media financially. Those who self-identified as “conservative” or “very conservative” scored themselves lower on the trust scale and said they financially supported fewer media organizations. Many respondents were willing to pay for news but were still skeptical of it.
One interesting tidbit? Respondents who self-identified as older said they were less likely to believe what the news told them and simultaneously more likely to financially support news sources.
This project was done in concert with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and Joy Mayer, who have teamed up to investigate trust in the news media on a larger scale. Her work, giving insights and summarizing the results of this project and others like it from other newsrooms, will be out later this year.
Micah Emmel-Duke is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.