Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from the free, weekly Voices for a Free Press newsletter. Subscribe at st.news/FreePressNewsletter.
The partisan divide over trusting news is widening, according to a new Pew Research report.
Yet local news remains trusted by a strong majority of both Democrats and Republicans, the study found.
The disagreement is mostly over national news, where 78% of Democrats trust the information a lot or somewhat, compared to just 35% of Republicans.
I’ve written several times about this trust gap and how some journalism organizations are now looking for ways to bridge the divide and rebuild trust, particularly among conservatives.
The magnitude of this challenge is shown by Pew’s research.
Most of all, it highlights the urgent need to save local news organizations. They are the best hope of providing information that’s widely trusted, builds common understanding and sustains civic dialogue.
Overall, just 58% of Americans told Pew they have at least some trust in information from national news organizations.
That’s down from 76% in 2016, when the country elected a president who deliberately and strategically undermined trust in the press and other institutions that held him accountable.
Social media fares worse, with only 27% of Americans saying they have at least some trust in information from such sites. Pew found 34% of Democrats trust them versus 19% of Republicans.
Fortunately, 75% of Americans still trust information from local news organizations. That’s down from 82% in 2016 but still strong.
Among Democrats, 84% trust local news, down from 85% in 2016. Republicans’ trust in local news declined further, from 79% to 66%, still nearly double the 35% who trust national news.
Yet local newspapers, which do most of the journalism in their communities, are becoming extinct across great swaths of the country. Remaining papers are mostly shrinking and struggling to survive.
This is a national crisis that Congress must address immediately.
Afghanistan showed us, painfully, how hard it is to build a democratic republic in a tribal society.
Maintaining democracy in an increasingly tribal nation is also hard, especially when a crucial pillar, the local free press system, is crumbling.
Trust and the news industry must be restored.
Americans cannot sustain a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for common defense, promote the general welfare or secure the blessings of liberty if a majority no longer believes national news and local outlets they trust are gone.
Quoted: “If you aren’t engaged in local news, it begs the question: How can you answer the command to love your neighbors if you don’t know them — rejoicing in their successes and empathizing with their needs?”
That’s from an opinion column by Mike Orren, chief product officer at The Dallas Morning News, published in the Denison Forum, urging fellow Christians to support and engage with local newspapers and federal legislation to sustain them.
Newspaper circulation falls: America’s top 25 newspapers lost 20% of their weekday print subscribers since the pandemic began, falling to a combined circulation of 3.4 million, according to a report by the U.K.-based Press Gazette. It notes that large papers are now focusing heavily on digital subscriptions but print remains an important revenue stream.
Scrambling to cover Hurricane Ida: How Louisiana journalists kept reporting and newspapers kept publishing, despite losing power and cell service, is shared by The Poynter Institute’s Tom Jones.
Alden buys newspaper plant: Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund notorious for buying papers and slashing investments in them, has apparently found another way to milk a struggling paper. An Alden real estate subsidiary is buying the former printing plant of the Tampa Bay Times, an independent paper that’s cutting costs to pay down debt, Poynter reports.
More school coverage wanted: Former journalist John Zhu takes his local paper, the Raleigh News & Observer, to task for mask-centric school coverage. “Yes, parents want to know about masking policy, but … there is so, so much more we want to know regarding the return to school,” he writes for Nieman Lab.