institutional media

Why People don’t trust the Media

Andrew Sullivan

Andrew surmises that almost no one trusts the media…That may be so in the US but I suspect we have a ways to go in NZ.

Jonathan Ladd blames partisanship:

Party polarization has raised the stakes in elections. And polarization combined with the growth of partisan media options has created an incentive for party leaders and activists to discredit the mainstream media among their supporters. Party leaders convince their partisans in the mass public to resist informative messages from the mainstream media and ideologically hostile outlets, and instead rely more on ideologically friendly new outlets.  In doing this, they can help to inoculate their supporters against voting for the other side.

I’m not sure that our political parties do this yet, but certainly this occurs within the commentariat, including blogs, where newspapers especially are described by an alleged political slant. Variously you will here the NZ Herald described as a pinko rag, or from the other side as a Tory rag. Of course the opinion is coloured by the world view of the commentator.

The trouble with this trend:

Political scientists have documented the tendency of people from different parties to have perceptions of reality that reflect their partisanship. Put simply, when a Democrat is president, Democrats tend to think that national conditions are better than Republicans do, and vice versa. I find that this trend is much larger among those who distrust the institutional media.

There are many from the left who think that the NZ Herald is a shill for National. I don’t believe this is a fair assumption. I do think it is fair though to say that the Herald has tabloided itself and is populated by journalists and columnists whose world-view is a little rose-tinted when it comes to political colours. But the paper itself isn’t bias one way or the other.

With blogs at least you know what side they are on and so you look at what they are saying through that prism.With newspapers and television there is a thin veneer of impartiality, but long term watchers and readers soon discover the political persuasion of the players.