John Edwards, another blow for the press

public trust in the press is at an all-time lowThe graph on the right is from the Gallup organization late last year. It shows two important things: one, trust in the press continues its downward trek in the U.S. and, two, the percentage of people with no trust in the media is clearly above the percentage of those who say they have a great or a fair amount of trust.

Trust has been trending downward for so long that it’s hard to believe the press continues to move forward maintaining a quo that has clearly lost its status.

And now we have the John Edwards affair, a story that was first broken in October by the tabloid The National Enquirer. When it broke, Edwards was able to successfully spin it as the rantings of a tabloid, but now that we know it’s true, it casts another pall over the press as a whole. Political blogs pursued the story, but the press did not. Did they look the other way, because Edwards is a Democrat? I don’t believe that, but many do. The point is there clearly is a “pressosphere” in this country, and the farther downstream we get with blogs and the explosion of other niche publishers, the more clearly that becomes. Jay Rosen calls it “Pressthink,” the name of his blog. In the Edwards case, it was the view of this “pressosphere” that the story had no merit. Turns out that was poor judgment.

As I’ve written in the past, the press operates in this country as the voice of the people and assumes a public trust in that regard. We simply have to take this into consideration as we work to reinvent journalism for the 21st Century, because this “pressosphere” neither speaks for the people nor has the public trust. If the press is to be rescued, it must begin by assuming a degree of independence from this group think, for the group tends to support the group, not the best interests of the public.

The Gallup numbers speak the truth, and the press needs ears to hear.


  1. If so many MSM reporters think sexual affairs aren’t news, then why do they care what two consenting adults do in a public bathroom?

  2. What is the reason for the big jumps in the middle of 2004?

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