In early October, Gallup released data revealing that Americans’ trust in the media to report the news accurately and fairly hit its second-lowest point on record. This year, a mere 36 percent of Americans voiced confidence in the media, down four points from 2020.
Gallup’s research on the subject reaches back to 1972, when about 70 percent of Americans expressed trust in the media. By the turn of the century, that number dropped to 53 percent. And, amid the divisive 2016 presidential election, it hit an all-time low of 32 percent.
Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, that number rose 13 points in just two years. But with a loss of trust from Americans across the political spectrum, we now find ourselves in yet another era of record-low confidence in the country’s news media.
As partisan gridlock continues in Washington and state capitals nationwide, Americans from the left to the right are losing faith in their elected officials. And with the ongoing pandemic and economic frustration, these trends aren’t likely to reverse anytime soon.
As a result, this mistrust has carried over to what’s often referred to as the nation’s “fourth estate” — the news media. If Americans don’t believe the lawmakers they had a say in electing are standing up for their best interests, they’re unlikely to think that journalists will either.
So, as business executives, nonprofit professionals, coalition builders and community leaders, how should you navigate this murky situation? Keep your organization’s news strictly to your website, advertising and social media channels?
Maintaining your paid, social and owned media efforts is certainly critical—your target audiences need to be surrounded by your messages in order for them to sink in. And it’ll likely your organization or products will still need earned media in the mix as well. The focus should be on finding the media who your audience relates to and trusts. In other words, amplify messages as thoughtfully, authentically and strategically as possible with the outlets and reporters who have the greatest impact on your audience.
Shying away from media opportunities only allows others to shape the narrative that you should be driving. While taking part in a live interview or contributing an opinion piece can be intimidating, they’re your best opportunity to cut through that mistrust and say something that’s worth talking about.
And if you need a little assistance putting your organization’s best foot forward when engaging with the media, reach out to Eckel & Vaughan. We’re here to help.