The people who work in journalism express the most surprise when surveys and polls show the media is an untrustworthy institution. Distrust often stems from political ideology.
Laughably, Democrats and liberals distrust the press for the same reasons as Republicans and conservatives. However, a fundamental history lesson would show such a viewpoint to be silly.
Conservatives have far more reason to be skeptical of the press than liberals and, for the most part, that is still the case.
The latest news about the Washington Free Beacon and Fusion GPS is a classic example of the press getting it wrong. News broke that WFB utilized Fusion GPS in 2015 to gather information about Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump.
People may question why a news organization chose to hire an outside agency to do opposition research as opposed to directing staff to do the work and it’s probably a fair question. Granted, in the age of new media, it might just be that hiring a contractor to do the job was financially beneficial. I am sure WFB will explain further.
When the news broke, hard-core Trump supporters, who despise any media outfit that doesn’t kiss Trump’s ring immediately took off on WFB claiming they funded the infamous “Steele dossier” that supposedly contains information about Trump, pee-pee and other assorted nonsense. But it wasn’t just the Trump leg humpers. Some in the media got in on the act.
The Hill characterized the story this way in their headline:
Conservative site funded project that led to Trump dossier
That headline is not even close to being right. WFB’s use of Fusion GPS had nothing at all to do with the dossier. Yes, Fusion GPS was involved in both, but the idea the two were connected is flat out false.
Even the Washington Examiner’s headline is sloppy:
Washington Free Beacon funded original Fusion GPS anti-Trump opposition effort
Byron York contradicts the headline in the third paragraph of the story:
The original arrangement between the Free Beacon and Fusion GPS involved opposition research into multiple Republican candidates, not just front-runner Donald Trump.
If it involved multiple Republican candidates, it was not an “anti-Trump” effort.
The news media exists in a world that did not exist just ten years ago. In 2007, Facebook had just launched publicly. Twitter was an infant. YouTube was only two years old. Many mainstream digital news outlets people read on a daily basis were not around.
Unfortunately, traffic and ratings are critical these days to the success of a news organization, whether or not is a legacy organization or a new, digital-only organization. If any of them want to get back some of the trust from the public, they have to start doing their jobs better.