Trust in media at an all-time low

The release of this year’s Gallup numbers on trust in institutions happened last week when I was in San Francisco, but it demands comment. First of all, here’s a graph I made showing these numbers historically. The question is: “Now I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one — a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?” The graph looks at the top numbers, “Great deal” and “Quite a lot.” The 28 percent “grade” given newspapers and television news is the lowest since Gallup began asking the question in 1973.

The trendline is obvious and chilling, and it shines a spotlight on why my friends and colleagues need to address the specific questions of why people have disappeared from the viewing audience and where they have gone. As TV stations struggle with solving their revenue problems, I continue to drone on: Revenue isn’t the problem. Audience is the problem. Fix the problem!

Trust in institutions is down across-the-board, with the exception of church. Trust is flat there. This is evidence of the rise of Postmodern thinking, where institutions are seen as self-serving and anti-people. Hierarchies are crumbling, especially those where protected knowledge determines rank.

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