* Only 32% say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the media
* Only 14% of Republicans express trust in the media
The mass media industry can change, however, and it must.
Here is an open letter to all members of “the Fourth Estate,” with some suggestions for transformation.
Dear ladies and gentlemen of the mass media,
This is a sincere message to you, to recommend a positive path forward. It’s not a letter of complaint. You can get that from thousands of other sources. However, the world needs you to return to your historical position of thought leadership and integrity, as a counterbalance to a political world that has lost its way.
Most of the necessary changes needed must begin with print media. Print media perform most of the heavy lifting, finding and reporting the real news. Cable news and Internet news pages copy most of their material from print publications and make a fortune in the process.This one-way relationship requires change.
Recommendation One: Your first step should be to unite the top ten print publications into an agreement to permanently separate straight news from opinion columns. Many readers resent so-called “news stories” that mix a writer’s personal opinions with actual news reporting. Each publication can print a robust opinion page or even an entire opinion section. Nevertheless, readers want to understand the news without integrated lecturing. If and when the top ten (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc.) adhere to this change, most lesser publications will follow. Those who do not will lose subscribers. Cable news channels—most of whom broadcast stories already reported by print media sources—will transform themselves out of necessity. If the top ten publications unite to announce this policy change, they will bolster the reputation of print media within a few months.
Recommendation Two: Media industry leaders should create a new organizational consortium to deliver high-integrity news, somewhat like AP but executed by temporary one-year assignments of senior reporters covering a full spectrum of worldwide information. Assigned reporters would be equally balanced by political ideology. Over time, readers would gravitate to stories from this group, because they would trust the stories as written.
Recommendation Three: Media companies need to minimize the free use of their work-product by Internet news providers. The free use of material between mass media and Internet news providers like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook evolved from the early 1990s when “more eyeballs” seemed to grow circulation. But the internet turned out to be a competitor and caused massive circulation losses. Media organizations need to work together to treat internet news pages as friendly competitors. One way would be for all of the top news providers to copyright their posted material and charge a small usage fee for each story used. Sites that refused to pay for usage would be legally required to pay court-ordered damages. The content-creation companies could share materials without paying royalties if they operated together as a consortium. Readers could visit the actual sites for each content provider for free.
Mass media companies, as experienced members of your industry, might have better ideas than my recommendations. If so, please implement them ASAP. Operating in today’s status quo environment damages America, and continues to diminish your previously authoritative reporting.
Most Americans are on your side. Are you on our side?