Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

To Public, the Press Too Often Gets It Wrong

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

To Public, the Press Too Often Gets It Wrong

Article excerpt

Dan Brown doesn't read the newspaper as often as he used to. He's been busy opening a new business. More important, he doesn't think it's worth his time. "There's so much garbage in there that's not worth reading," says Mr. Brown, co-owner of the Capital Cat Clinic in Arlington, Va. "You don't see enough stories about small businesses or some of the good things that are going on in the city." Millions of Americans share Brown's frustration, and that's taken its toll on the fourth estate. Newspapers' credibility has been declining steadily, along with circulation, during the last 10 years. But the nation's editors and publishers are determined to win back the public's respect. The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) released Dec. 15 the findings of the first major national survey designed to probe more deeply the "underlying causes" of journalists' disconnect with the public. It's part of a three-year effort to understand the print media's credibility problem - and design experimental programs to address it. What the study found was not surprising to many in the industry. In an effort to "get it first, get it fast, and get it right," too often, reporters are getting it wrong. "Too many factual errors and spelling and grammar mistakes" top the list of major reasons for the public's distrust of the media. Others include: * A belief that newspapers don't show enough respect for, and knowledge of, their readers and communities. * A suspicion that bias influences which stories are covered and how they're reported. * Concern that sensational stories are covered only in an effort to sell newspapers. "Previous surveys have given us an idea of what the symptoms were," says Michele McClellan, public editor of The Oregonian, in Portland. "This goes a lot further, adding considerable depth to our understanding of the problem." The Oregonian is one of eight newspapers across the country that will be "testsites" to address the problems. Ms. McClellan is optimistic, in part, because of her firsthand experience. A year ago, the paper began an aggressive, internal accuracy program. …

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