Vanity Fair designated the growing number of people who don’t trust what they read in The Washington Post and The New York Times as an “existential threat” to the two media organizations in the September issue of the magazine.
The papers have managed to stay afloat in terms of readers and revenue thanks to a big boost from the Trump campaign and presidency, James Warren notes in the article. But that list may be obscuring the extent to which the outlets are losing credibility with the public.
“[A]n existential threat is already apparent: many Americans won’t believe a thing either newspaper says, no matter how great the accuracy, attention to detail, or fair-mindedness,” he writes. “The sharp uptick in Times and Post readership may obscure a larger cultural change.”
Warren cites a 2017 Pew poll showing that only 20 percent of adults trust what they read from national news organizations like the NYT and WaPo. It was only a year ago that Republicans and Democrats agreed on the scope of the press’ influence, but 2017 now boasts a wider gap between the parties than ever before. While 77 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats thought that news criticism kept political leaders on track in 2016, now only about a third of Democrats say they really trust national news outlets, along with just 11 percent of Republicans, according to Pew.
These leading news outlets have become “the enemy of the American people,” according to the President himself, Warren noted. For example, while there is legitimate news regarding Trump and the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the election, Warren notes: “[H]alf think the press has been overly dramatic and irresponsible in its Russia-related coverage …”
“Damage has been done,” he adds, referring to attacks on media credibility in recent months. “When the Times publishes an entire page of ‘Trump’s Lies’ — the result of meticulous research and editing—you’d hope it would move the needle. … Trump’s Gallup Poll approval rating in July was a dismally low 38 percent, but among his supporters it does not seem to have dropped much at all.”
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