There was even some good news in the numbers for traditional news media. The percentage of people who thought “news organizations had too much influence on the outcome of the presidential election” dropped by 10 percentage points from four years earlier. People also tended to report relying on news organizations for election news more than four years earlier.
Odd that Pew inferred that as good news. I’d say the 10 percent drop reflects the rise in alternative media outlets. I’m probably among the 10 percent who no longer believe that the New York Times carries the same influence that it did 20 years ago.
What appears to be rising now is the charge of bias, largely a case of both sides of the political spectrum seeing the press as unfair to their views. After the election, the percentage of Americans who thought the press was fair to John Kerry, for instance, dropped by six points from the number who thought the press was fair to the Democrat Al Gore in 2000. The percentage who thought the press unfair to the Democrat rose by seven points — a 13-point shift. On the other side, the percentage who thought Bush got a fair shake dropped nine points from four years earlier, and the percentage who thought the press unfair to him rose 10 points – a 19-point shift.3
… What’s more, for the last two decades Americans’ confidence in the press has lagged precipitously behind that of other institutions.6 It may be that the expectations of the press have sunk enough that they will not sink much further. People are not dismayed by disappointments in the press. They expect them. That is hardly a base on which to build, particularly as the traditional press, now referred to in the blogosphere by the acronym MSM (for mainstream media), begins to have to contend not only with Republicans who deride it as liberal, but with liberals who deride it as cowed by Republicans, and bloggers who deride it as out of touch.
The silver lining: The public’s disdain for the press can sink no further.
The rest of the report is interesting, particularly the content analysis section which supports empirically the contention that press coverage of Bush was overwhelmingly more negative than Kerry’s. But, I grow weary arguing that point.