In June of this year, The Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and the AP-NORC Center, published a study titled Americans and the News Media: What they do-and don’t-understand about each other. The study surveyed both the public and journalists to find the commonalities and disconnects between the two. The results concluded many Americans do not fully understand how journalists work, and that many Americans and journalists agree that the media needs to be more transparent.
The study found that a majority of the public and journalists want the press to have verified facts that are supplemented by background and analysis, albeit, the public does not trust that the press is doing so. Forty-two percent of the public thinks that news they see veers too far into commentary and 35% have a very or somewhat negative view of media organizations. The study also looked at the public’s understanding of basic concepts and news industry jargon. Fifty percent of the public are unsure of what an “Op-Ed” is, 43% do not know what the term “attribution” means and 42% do not understand how anonymous sourcing works. Additionally, 3 in 10 do not know the difference between an “editorial” and a “news story.”
While the study found that journalists expected some of these results, there is opportunity for the news industry to be more transparent so that the public may better understand the type of news content published. The study states, “the broader news industry still has to act on that knowledge – through steps such as transparency, labeling, eliminating jargon, and letting the public participate in the news.”
The study goes on to report that the public and journalists want more transparency in the news industry. Sixty-eight percent of the public and 66% of journalists agree that the media should offer more information about their sources. Additionally, 48% of the public and 42% of journalists agree that the media should explain how a story was reported. A similar ratio also agreed that news organizations should explain their policies better.
Surprisingly, the study found that 56% of the public and 61% of journalists feel like the news industry is headed in the wrong direction. The need for transparency in the news industry has grown increasingly more important.