Annenberg survey

The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center has released a survey it conducted on attitudes toward bias, accuracy, partisan journalism and press freedom.

I was one of 673 journalists polled (I blogged about it here), so it was interesting to read the results of the survey. The survey also included 1,500 members of the general public, and, as you might expect, there was a wide divide:

“This study reveals a worrisome divide between the public’s view of journalism and journalists’ own views of their work. If journalists do indeed believe that what they do is valuable, fair and ethically sound, it’s past time they began to put that case more effectively to the public,” noted Geneva Overholser, co-editor of a new Oxford University Press book, The Press.

…. [T]he media sample, with a median experience level of 23 years, is distinctly more liberal than the public in general… Thirty-one percent of those in the journalists’ sample called themselves liberal, 49 percent said they were moderates and just nine percent said they were conservatives. In the public generally, 24 percent said they were liberal, 33 percent moderate and 38 percent conservative. …

The public also rated the ethics of journalists well below that of teachers, but above that of government officials, lawyers and politicians. …. But 95 percent of journalists ranked their trade’s ethics as good; 32 percent said “very good,” a rating given by only 7 percent of the public. …

When asked what led CBS News to run [the Killian memos story], 40 percent of the public said a major reason was “CBS News and Dan Rather are liberals who dislike President Bush.” Only 10 percent of journalists agreed. The journalists attributed the decision to run the story heavily to CBS’s belief in its accuracy (76 percent)” and to its “being in too much of a rush” (73 percent).

Other tidbits from the survey:

  • 16% percent of journalists and 43% of the public said it was “a good thing if some news organizations have a decidedly political point of view in their coverage of the news.” 80% of journalists and 53% of the public called that a “bad thing.”
  • 86% of journalists and only 45% of the public think media organizations generally “get their facts straight.”
  • 74% of journalists think news organizations quickly report errors, but just 30% of the public share that opinion. 24% of the public thinks news organizations ignore errors and 41% say they try to cover them up.

“That was the most surprising thing, the public perception that journalists don’t correct errors,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Center, told E&P. “We focused on the serious errors and you have journalists believing they correct them. You’d like to know what the truth is.”

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