As many have probably seen by now, Gallup released a poll on September 14 that a record-low percentage of the American people trust the media and, naturally, CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday addressed it, but the 11-minute segment made it another obsessive discussion of Donald Trump’s hostility toward them and ignored key factors such as routine bias by omission stories or excusing/ignoring Democratic scandals.
“I have a question for you. It's kind of personal. Do you trust me? Do you trust us in the media? This new data says no. This is a Gallup poll, the most depressing poll I saw this week, that shows only 32 percent of Americans say they trust the media either a great deal or somewhat,” host Brian Stelter began before adding that only 14 percent of Republicans have a shred of trust in the media.
Stelter quickly turned the attention to Trump and how he’s “taking credit for that drop in trust” before bringing on his panel in search of solutions. Once again, the poll became framed in terms of Trump’s behavior as the next few minutes were spent hailing David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post for his work looking into Trump’s supposedly charitable gifts.
After Fahrenthold explained that his reporting has included showing readers the questions he’s asking of Trump and his campaign plus sought the input of readers, Chicago Sun-Times writer Lynn Sweet bemoaned how a focus group recently told her that they don’t even trust fact-checkers:
They said — and this is part of what we're grappling with — well, we don't trust the media, so why would we trust what they conclude? That shows how high the bar is now...[W]e might all agree are facts. We have to respect that people don't see things the way we might, and just keep working in our craft to make our case when we have it[.]
As NewsBusters has chronicled repeatedly, the reason people don’t trust fact-checking sites is because too much of their selections skew heavily toward Republicans and the liberal ones chosen are typically found to be true on far-left issues like abortion and her e-mail scandal.
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While a credible and strong conservative, S.E. Cupp brought up the idea of a “liberal bias,” but again kept the focus on Trump being this massive danger to the media.
For even some conservatives who believe Trump is a problem, anyone making the argument that he’s an extreme threat to journalism should have realized long ago that the media’s trust was already down in the dumps dating back decades whether it’s their treatment of the Bushes and Romneys, covering up for any number of Clinton scandals, or giving oxygen to Trump’s conspiracy theories about Ted Cruz’s father playing a role in the Kennedy assassination or cheating on his wife.
Cupp then made a point about Trump’s suggestion the media should congratulate him for giving to charity is “almost like Trotsky era, Pravda-like ideas” about how the industry, but she again failed to use the stage to point out how the media have undermined themselves when it comes to their coverage of the Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal, fawning over Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, or become full-borne advocates of issues like gun control.
One final point that encapsulated the important but far from complete dialogue CNN attempted to have came when Sweet jumped on the bandwagon with The New York Times’s James Poniewozik in whining about Trump going on late-night comedy shows for a soft interview (irregardless of how people like President Obama have benefitted from them most):
Even I would invite people in other kinds of shows who have the people on, Jimmy Kimmel — Kimmel and Fallon. It's fun. I'm not against a fun thing of tossing Donald Trump's hair or asking a lighthearted question, but they have an opportunity to ask different kinds of questions and not just be fawning throughout the whole interview and I think that means everybody has to just get up the game just to get more information and for viewers, it doesn't mean we're for or against anyone. I'm a strong advocate of just getting more facts out, even if it just means asking Clinton and Trump where they buy their clothes.
The relevant portions of the transcript from CNN’s Reliable Sources on September 19 can be found below.
CNN’s Reliable Sources
September 18, 2016
11:38 p.m. Eastern
BRIAN STELTER: Welcome back. I have a question for you. It's kind of personal. Do you trust me? Do you trust us in the media? This new data says no. This is a Gallup poll, the most depressing poll I saw this week, that shows only 32 percent of Americans say they trust the media either a great deal or somewhat and you can see why here in the data. Democrats, much more that they trust the mass media than Republicans. Only 14 percent of Republicans say they trust the news media this year. Now, that number is a big drop from last year, which wasn't high to begin with. But because of the decline in trust among Republicans, the number has declined overall to record low of about 30 percent. Now, it won't surprise you to hear that Trump is taking credit for that drop in trust. So, I want to bring back our panel to talk more about this and, most importantly, talk about what journalists, what commentators, what we can all do in the media to get those number back up. Every day, we can either regain people's trust or lose even more of it. Back with me, Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times, CNN's S.E. Cupp, and David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post investigative reporter who has been doing heroic work looking into Trump's foundation and charitable giving. David, some people have said your work is Pulitzer-worthy. I know you're a humble guy. You don't want to talk about all the praise you have been getting this week, but I want to ask you about the investigation you have been doing and how you have been doing it. Essentially, what you have been doing is going to all these charities and asking them if they have received donations from Trump. Why are you going to the charities and not Trump directly?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I actually did go to Trump in the beginning. That's how this started. We wanted to — Trump says he gives tens of millions of dollars to charity out of his own pocket. But we asked him, OK, provide some proof. Show us, how much did you give? What charities did you give to? And he won't give us that proof. And so I sort of set out to try to prove him right. And I wanted to make my search as open and as transparent as possible. So, I made a list on some notebook paper of all the charities I thought Trump seemed the closest to, the ones that seemed most likely to get his money, if he was giving any money out. And I started calling those people and posting my results online, on Twitter and that's what I have tried to do, both because I want Trump to know that I'm out there looking trying to prove him right, and also because I want the public to see what I'm doing and if they have ideas to send them to me, so I can check them out.
STELTER: So you have been writing story after story and I wanted you to tell the behind-the-scenes story of how you have been doing this, because I think it might one small way for us to try to regain people's trust. What you're doing, David, is showing your work and the reaction...
LYNN SWEET: I think what I do know is that we can't stop doing the work just because we're at this all-time low. I mean, this is what Gallup called a stunning development for an institution designed to inform the public. That's what they concluded. I was at a focus group in Alexandria on Friday night. And I asked the people there, why don't you — or do you believe in fact-checks that the media provides?
STELTER: What did they say?
SWEET: They said — and this is part of what we're grappling with — well, we don't trust the media, so why would we trust what they conclude? That shows how high the bar is now and, David, I commend you, because you're putting out things that we might all agree are facts. We have to respect that people don't see things the way we might, and just keep working in our craft to make our case when we have it — and this is true of a presidential candidate down to an alderman — to make it as simple and as airtight as possible and understandable to people with evidence which we can link to now that we have all kinds of social media. So, I think the poll, yes, it's bad for us, but it shouldn't stop us from continuing the kind of gumshoeing that reporters always do. We have 50 days left — and that's true for all candidates in all races — is to keep at it and, in a sense, Brian, not worry about our own poll numbers.
STELTER: That's a good way to put it. Well, Donald Trump noticed the numbers, not surprisingly. He said he believes he is partly responsible for that decline in trust particularly among Republicans. Let me ask you, S.E., is it dangerous, is it actually dangerous for Donald Trump to be helping undermine American institutions, even ones like the media that weren't very popular to begin with?
CUPP: Well, of course it is and there is always some consternation over the media every presidential election. Usually, it's Republicans griping about Democratic bias in the media, liberal bias in the media. But there is always some. Never before, though, have we seen a candidate for president not only telling people to be skeptical of the media, but telling people to hate us as a body, as an institution. There is no sort of nuance for the role that journalism should play. Trump doesn't understand that. He fundamentally shows over and over again he doesn't understand.
CUPP: He gave some charitable amount to, I think, the vets that one time, and was angry that it didn't get the coverage he wanted. He said, the media should be congratulating me and that is just not fundamentally the job of the media. And so to be telegraphing these impulses about the media, these almost like Trotsky era, Pravda-like ideas about how the media should treat a presidential candidate or a politician, telegraphing that to viewers, I'm not surprised that so many have taken such an unfavorable view of the media writ large, because he's really done a tremendous job turning the populace against this very necessary and important institution.
STELTER: I like to think that we are part of the central nervous system of democracy. We actually do work for the viewers, although sometimes we don't do a good job of explaining that and showing it. So, David, let me go back to you. What would you like to see your colleagues, even your colleagues at The Post, do a little bit differently trying to earn back people's trust?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I think we're working really hard. The people at The Post, as far as I know — and I have seen this effort going on for months — are writing about all these things that Trump says, all these things that Trump does. I think we have put a lot of it out there. The key is to try to figure out — and I think people are starting to do this — what do you do when Trump says something that is not true and says it again and again and again? And one of the interesting things that CNN has done, The New York Times has done, we have done the last few days, for instance, on the birther controversy, when Trump lies, we call it a lie. And that is — there is no sort of journalistic euphemism about that. It's too obvious and it's gone on for too long. I think you're starting to see a shift, where, before, we sort of wanted the candidate to show some shame about what they had done, so we could say it was shameful. And now you're seeing the media sort of push the candidates to higher standards and say they lied if they lied.
SWEET: Even I would invite people in other kinds of shows who have the people on, Jimmy Kimmel — Kimmel and Fallon. It's fun. I'm not against a fun thing of tossing Donald Trump's hair or asking a lighthearted question, but they have an opportunity to ask different kinds of questions and not just be fawning throughout the whole interview and I think that means everybody has to just get up the game just to get more information and for viewers, it doesn't mean we're for or against anyone. I'm a strong advocate of just getting more facts out, even if it just means asking Clinton and Trump where they buy their clothes. You will learn a little bit about a person from answers like that. So we should use these opportunities, back each other up, break down questions, and when need be confront in the follow-up question, this is not true, sir, and then see what they say.
STELTER: And, obviously, if Clinton or Obama or anything else were doing the same thing, maybe the same rules would apply.
STELTER: Real quick, David, before we let you go, because The Washington Post was blacklisted until a couple of weeks ago, along with Politico, Univision and other outlets, has the relaxing of the blacklist helped you get more information from the Trump campaign?
FAHRENTHOLD: No, not at all.