Every ten years Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications conducts a poll of journalists, and its 2022 survey has been completed and delivers results that reveal the fractured prism of our news industry. Numerous polls are conducted annually that show public trust in the media has been plummeting; this survey may explain some of those reasons.
While the results are not shocking, the details in the metrics - and some of the specific numbers - are a bit jarring.
First, let us just recognize that, despite what is heard from the press in recent years about the Republican party becoming a fringe anti-democracy movement and out of touch with Americans, the general populace is actually in balance. In the same year as this survey, Gallup shows an even split between Republicans and Democrats, about 45% each. Now, look at the deeply contrasting makeup of newsrooms.
While traditionally it has been that journalists lean Democratic, it has been a recent trend that Republicans are evaporating from the news industry. Some 50 years ago there was a semblance of equality, at least in those occupying cubicles, if not the content on the page. In the 1972 survey the split between journalists who were Dems/GOP/Independent ran 35%/25%/32%. In this latest poll the number of Republicans is a miniscule 3.2%
In 2022, just 3.4% of journalists were Republicans.— Kevin Bass PhD MS (@kevinnbass) December 27, 2023
That figure was 18% in 2002 and 25.7% in 1971.
As with most professions, conservatives have been increasingly excluded or purged from the ranks of journalists.
If you wonder why the media is the way it is today, this is why. pic.twitter.com/AuZ8iCMiwQ
The result of this is seen in the polls showing the public perception of the press. Pew research has shown that while public trust in the media is declining, there is a widening between parties, as Republican voters are plunging in this measure with the number of those declaring they trust the press being slashed in half in just a five year span.
What is odd here is that many within the industry recognize there is a serious problem, and yet by their inactivity we see little in the way of addressing the issue. Another question from the Syracuse pollsters asked for perceptions from within the industry, with the overwhelming majority (60 percent) declaring journalism was going in the wrong direction. They were also asked what they consider the most important problem in journalism, and the top response was that decline in public trust. Yet trends over the years show the industry only embracing the actions leading to these results.
There is even an indication of recognition of this lack of diverse ideologies in newsrooms. When asked what type of diversity is needed in the workforce race was obviously the top selection, at just over one quarter of the responses. But close behind were those citing a diversity of thought was an issue, with nearly 22 percent saying political orientation needs to be addressed. So there is a belief somewhere below the surface that a solution may be available.
The challenge to change appears to be one of the motivations of the outlets. By gathering a newsroom with a solitary mindset the diversity of thought will never flourish in the ideological bubble created, and while a self-created crisis emerges there are few to speak out and point out that by serving one side of the political aisle - and declaring the other side the enemy - you are telling almost half the country thay are a problem.
Little mystery then why trust has plummeted, animosity has flourished, and news outlets are witnessing a flight of audiences and revenues. Even if those in the business see a problem, things will not change until they address things directly.
Well, that’s not good. Traffic to news sites in November, per ComScore. pic.twitter.com/yzCcDPAKVF— Paul Farhi (@farhip) December 19, 2023