A recent study produced by the Knight Foundation and Gallup probably didn’t grab the attention of a lot of county residents, but it sure caught our gaze.
The study “State of Public Trust in Local News” carried some good news and some bad news for the print media in America.
One conclusion the study delivered was that Americans tend to trust their local reporters more than the national news.
For many of us in the conservative heartland of Eastern Oregon, that probably isn’t much of a surprise. But other results of the study were less heartening for reporters and editors striving to work in rural areas like Grant County.
One key result from the study: About 45% of Americans have either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in local news compared with 31% for national news. At first glance that stat may seem cause for celebration, especially in the newspaper industry.
But it isn’t.
That’s because the statistic means more than half of Americans don’t trust their local press. Even fewer, obviously, trust our national counterparts.
Much of that could be put squarely on the shoulders of the current political climate we now inhabit, like it or not, in the United States. Facts tend to be whatever information fits a political outlook. If the “facts” don’t fit that political view, then they are bogus.
As depressing as that is, we in the local and regional news industry must do more to earn trust from our readers.
It is simply not just a good idea but, in some ways, it is a crucial act of self-preservation. The good news from the study is that 79% of Americans find their local news organizations covering issues that impact their daily lives.
That is heartening.
The overarching issue, though, boils down to creating and building trust to ensure democracy thrives. Residents — voters — can’t make informed decisions about important matters if they don’t have the information. We at the Blue Mountain Eagle are the crucial link between voters and their elected leaders regarding information flow. Without the information, members of a democracy are no more than a mob.
Our job, then, is to work hard to be as value-free as possible regarding the presentation of news. Because we are human, that is a tall order. Humans makes mistakes. Humans are fallible.
But readers need to know that we will do all we can, always, to deliver balanced information in our stories. We believe it to be critical that we earn our readers’ trust. And we do that by presenting information in a fair and professional manner.