Still time

If, as the fifth century B.C., Greek dramatist Aeschylus declared, “In war, truth is the first casualty,” perhaps in the Trump years the first casualty has been trust.

Results from a Gallup/Knight Foundation poll contain little to cheer this nation’s mainstream media in that regard.

“Most U.S. adults, including more than 9 in 10 Republicans, say they personally have lost trust in the news media in recent years,” the analysis of the poll states. At the same time, 69 percent of those who says they have lost trust also say it can be restored.

The largest gripes against the media were a lack of accuracy and bias.

Many Americans, it seems, regard the news media nowadays as the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. Others complain of a conservative bias. There are plenty of examples supporting both points of view, and that bodes ill for the future of an ailing industry – and perhaps the nation. What will happen, after all, when nobody trusts any source of information; when the news media, because of their excesses, are completely marginalized? How does our republic survive that?

One of the most important institutions in the nation, the news media must dig in and work diligently to regain the trust lost over past years. It is not that difficult to play it down the middle, to avoid mistakes and pejorative language in news stories, or those raised-eyebrow, eye-rolling moments on cable and talking-head broadcast shows. Keep the editorials on the editorial page.

But all that it will require determined efforts from editors and producers who understand how it is supposed to be done and who demand nothing less than accuracy and diligent adherence to the facts. Frankly, though, we have little hope that will happen. Too many “journalists” seem entirely comfortable nowadays with their new roles as activists, advocates and tormentors to settle for providing straight news.

The good news is that the damage already done is not insurmountable. It can be fixed with effort. For the sake of our nation’s future, we can only hope the media as a whole will take a deep breath and click the reset button.

There is still time.

 

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