Audience and the media: a shaky marriage

November 12, 2009

How can mainstream news organizations retain (or regain) their audience’s trust in skeptical world where almost anyone with an Internet connection can be a publisher? That’s the topic a panel of industry experts will address tonight at the Thomson Reuters heaquarters in Times Square. We’ll be live blogging the event here from 7pm ET.

The panel comprises: Andrew Alexander, ombudsman, The Washington Post; Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor, The Associated Press; Lisa Shepard, ombudsman, National Public Radio; and Dean Wright, global editor of ethics, innovation & news standards, Reuters. Jack Shafer, editor-at-large for Slate, is the moderator.

If you’d like to put a question to the panel, leave it in the comments box below and we’ll ask a selection on your behalf.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

I stopped buying Australian newspapers because of the NASTY attitudes. HATE towards a particular political party. Extreme OPINION of some journo who I have no idea of their qualifications but can SEE their political bias.So I get my news from the internet.. REUTERS, DAILY NEWS . After watching FOX News I realize the famous newspapers in America and TV channels are no better than the banks. In Australia Channel 7 was full on for the Labor Party. It is not news…it is just NASTY PROPAGANDA. WEB news is the only way to go.

Posted by Ronnnie Bell | Report as abusive

First of all your panel is stacked. Where are the conservatives?Start giving the views of others besides Liberals.

Posted by Rose Hammer | Report as abusive

there is nothing the media can do to re-gain my trust. any measure they take to try to do so, is only to gain my trust, not for the greater good or reporting non-biased events.just recently, my household became cable and tv free. and i am very excited about a life without the media and it’s slanted, politically biased and over-reactionary views.

Posted by back to the roots | Report as abusive

News and Opinion has gotten so skewed that it’s hard to tell them apart. I think every news channel should be required to display whether the information you are receiving at any moment is news or opinion. “The following program is an opinion”. When I get the news I don’t even want facial emotion from the person reading the news. By making a sad face or a happy face during the delivery of the news its already skewed by an opinion.

Posted by David Drake | Report as abusive

Two questions to the panel:1) If news is only trusted when thought to be objective, why have audiences around the world gravitated towards extremist journalism?2) How do you envision the nature of news changing as credibility continues to slip away from the majority of large news outlets?

Posted by Erik | Report as abusive

Any conference hosted by Slate is automatically suspect, if not further proof of liberal bias. I never cease to be amazed at the introspective panel discussions in which condescending liberals (1) dispute the existence of liberal bias and (2) emphasize the occasional , anecdotal, complaint that the media are “too conservative”. Now to the point: If the media wish to regain credibility they could start by simply reporting ALL news rather than burying stories that challenge their biases. When I see stories exposing ACORN being ignored by some media outlets who, by the way, have sufficient air time available to run fluff pieces about brainless celebrities, I become concerned. Second, America is being seriously “dumbed down”, and the media need to address that ignorance. Unfortunately, as people come to understand the Constitution and basic principles of economics, they tend to become Republican, an outcome the media will not tolerate. For that reason we will continue to see brainless “news readers” blathering about “Camelot”, “hope and change” and other nonsense that plays to their perceptions of reality instead of the hard truth.For example, during the months after the Iraq war CBS,NBC,ABC and their ilk all “coincidentally” began their evening news shows with the identical “Bush lied” headlines, yet we have seen nothing about Obama lying to Congress about his health care plans even though the legislation will currently include provisions that Obama pledged would not be there. Similarly, NBC ran a special report about “Republicans and the culture of corruption” when some GOP lawmakers got caught engaging in misconduct, yet the network has yet to air a similar report in the face of the repeated arrests, convictins and resignations of one prominent Democrat after another. By the way, if a REPUBLICAN president kept nominating tax cheats for cabinet offices wouldn’t we hear about it over and over again? Yet Obama is protected. Turning to Congress, where is the media outrage over tax cheats like Charlie Rangel? Oops, he is a Democrat.Enough said.

Posted by MARC CHRISTOPHE | Report as abusive

Here the US the media is ridiculously bias. Like our politics in recent years the media is far to one side or the other and its hard to trust any one source. In recent years you have daily news reporters getting fired for trying to air stories they knew were not true, but would adversly affect a political figure. Then on the other hand you have news claiming to be fair and balance, but there is no doubt in any watchers mind that each reporter reporting is far to the right (some exceptions may apply but in general its true) Then you have daily news casters highjacking the daily news so they can spin their view. Its rather pathetic no one has created a truely un bias news station. Reuters is the closest thing to un bias I have found but then again many AP reporters are bias in one way or another to the causes they believe in….

Posted by Edsall Hilty | Report as abusive

the main offenders are reuters and the associated press and the new york times. they do not do fair reporting and in some instances the reporters just plain lie.i have been a reporter for the past twenty five years which is why i am not giving you my real name.when people ask me what i do for a living, i say i sell shoes.guess what? i don’t have a press pass from the new york city police department and i don’t even have a special parking tag from the new york city police department.and believe it or not, i have never taken a free lunch or a ticket to a bway show.i even refused to take a free ice cream cone when i did a story about the chinatown ice cream factory.

Posted by belding weed | Report as abusive

A person’s morality is the source of their perspective and their bias. With media publishers unwilling to make plain their moral perspective, unwilling to admit when challenged that their morality produces a bias, why should the media be ‘trusted’. The stories selected for publishing, the perspectives presented in the story, the facts presented and not presented, the attitudes and assumptions in the story are all the product of the reporter’s morality. Do you trust a thief? Do you trust a murderer? How about someone who excuses them?

Posted by David Ringsmuth | Report as abusive

None of the American news media tell the unvarnished truth. There is a major effort to manipulate the economy by manipulating public opinion. Truth take the hindmost.It is amazing what the Times of India and Al Jazeera come up with that we can’t hear through the American media. We are out of touch with the rest of the world through our blind faith in our media.When Ted Turner started CNN, he told the news like it was. The liberals were so alarmed, they actually passed laws against him! Suddenly, he shifted CNN hard left. He became the darling of the liberals and made lots of money.Fox news was started by Rupert Murdoch, a Clintonista. He owns the only conservative television outlet. He gives Fox news a long leash, but he can step in and change things at strategic moments.I had to stop listening to “All Things Considered” in the mornings. My driving degenerated because of my anger. They gave one good news report from say, The Economist, and then followed it up with leftist propaganda. They would switch-hit like this the whole program.Dan Rather went too far in trying to attack a conservative president with a lie. When his credibility started going down, He somehow forced a bunch of liberal news anchors to join him in repeating the lie. They all lost credibility and were blown away. His problem was the lie was too blatant.

Posted by Timuchin | Report as abusive

Baby steps, baby steps. Let’s have ALL the media make a pledge to mention the political party of the subject of the news if he or she is a politician.Good or bad, just make it a standard that a politician’s name have a D, R, or I next to it.

Posted by Evelyn | Report as abusive

Limbaugh, Fox, Lou Dobbs et al. have double the viewers and listeners of the all the Democrat mouth pieces on your panel combined. They don’t seem to have any trouble attracting a large audience and a loyal one at that.

Posted by George P. | Report as abusive

When will the media reflect the American peoples opinion on illegal immigration instead of trying to make us believe that we should just accept the invasion of our country by MILLIONS of illegal aliens from all over the world.SECURE OUR BORDERSSTOP THE INVASION OF OUR COUNTRY BY MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD

Posted by John Doe 2 | Report as abusive

I stopped buying newspapers twenty years ago.I stopped watching TV a couple of years ago.I stopped giving web media any credit for being objective, as practically speaking there’s no such thing as ‘objective media’ (sorry Reuters, you’re included)This leads to the theoretical question – can any medium be objective? I seriously doubt it, and I know of any (objective) proof there’s ever been such a thing anywhere on this globe.Practically, when I get nausea from reading too much liberal stuff on Reuters I take a short dip in – just an an antidote…

Posted by yr | Report as abusive

the term media is too loosely applied. everything is media – news from trusted sources, where editors and writers are vetted, blogs from random people, advertisements, op eds, etc. so, what can the media do to regain the trust of people? educate the people about who they are. are you a news article? a youtube video? a blog? make it clear. Don’t try to do it all! i know it’s difficult to do in this converging technological era fraught competitions where balance sheets go mano a mano with editorial content, but sticking to what you do well, and remaining specialized (that’s what they tell doctors and lawyers, after all) is key.when media companies repurpose content, the original story gets morphed into so many different mediums, that audiences are left dazed and confused. they can’t trust what they don’t understand is real. keep it simple, and they will come here comes the long(er) version of my comment.people are so quick to criticize everything; but when it comes to critizing the media, i am puzzled that the critics don’t realize it’s only through the media that they can voice their opinions. dinner tables don’t count for too much. so, without the media they distrust (or is it that they don’t trust their own opinions?), how would they make their voices heard? they should be thankful! newspapers are a public service!audiences should also be more educated and realize that news is ‘liberal’ because that’s it’s purpose: it’s got to give ALL the facts, conservative and liberal. these days, ‘More conservatism!’ seems to be shouted from the rooftops and from the mouths of the most critical and the most cynical. but cynics, the same criticism you lob at the media can be applied to what you want too — because isn’t reporting more ‘conservative’ views on a story just as biased as reporting solely ‘liberal’ (aka different from what you think) views?finally, who is standing up for news? the conservatives cry foul about all the liberal outlets. the ‘liberal’ audience complain about how the news is so depressing. but the facts are the facts are the facts. people should realize that editors and writers take their jobs very seriously and try to rise above the bias of its audience (giving it to us plainly!) while the ignorant audience members blindly censure the purest attempt at a public service, the news has never given up on its audience. so where’s the reciprocation from the audience? the audience shouldn’t give up on the media.

Posted by thursday at 5:45 | Report as abusive

1. When paying closer scrutiny to published reports, you find – many writers pick up a story, re-word and put it on the respective media website. Its like filling an assigned space.2. You note – not all relevant data is publicized. For example- you see a website -stating the “official unemployment rate (10.2%)” – yet- they will not publish the much higher BLS A-12 table and U-6 (totally unemployed 17.5% nationwide.)3. Media website will not do sufficient research – allowing different views on same subject.4. Overall, items that may be construed as negative- are overlooked – what did one noted media site say ” we are only the messenger ” and constant negative subject do not attract viewers”” – “” Hello”” !!! – remember Walter Conkrite saying ” report the news – but only the news- nothing else – regardless how bad it is..!!Michael

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

I’ll start listening/watching/viewing to mainstream media when they stop entertaining us and reporting real news. Its become so obvious that media outlets have their financial backing from corporations with their own political agendas that it shows through in the stories and news they cover. I like to form my own opinions and not having media outlets tell me what they should be. I’m so sick of ABC, MSNBC, CNN, FOX, etc propping left against right to make us take our focus off of what is really happening behind the scenes. How about holding some of the Corporate and Political crooks accountable for stealing from the American/World people instead of covering balloon boy and Britney Spears?

Posted by Zach Suttner | Report as abusive

thursday,When people complain about the media, or a certain media organization being too ‘liberal’ it’s not because they think it’s too inclusive, but rather because they think it’s biased to the left.Guess what – such complaints are usually not that far from the truth.The cure? Just stop expecting objectivity, and try to either enjoy the ‘piece’ you’re reading or viewing, or learn something from it. You can achieve both even if you don’t really agree with everything the reporter / blogger/ columnist is trying to shove down your throat.Restrictions apply – Results may vary…

Posted by yr | Report as abusive

In countries like Brazil, which had to cope with a long period of dictatorship, having, through that, developed a distorted sense of media control, based mostly on political interests,the relationship between the news media and the audience has been one of a paternalistic subjugation. Considering there is a way to provide credibility to information on the web, how could technology bring real freedom to new voices in a transitional time where money remains king?

Posted by Valeria Monteiro | Report as abusive

American Mass Media is falling into disrepair.Why should this be of any concern to anyone other than American Mass Media?I see this as a positive development.

Posted by DSakarya | Report as abusive

QUESTION:Is it arguably impossible to restore trust while maintaining the current funding arrangement, in which veto power over content is sold off to the highest corporate bidder as a side benefit of the purchase of advertising time.Large corporations are not subject to anything resembling a free market; nor are they constrained to operate for the benefit of their customers.In light of these intrinsic problem in our delivery system, could one responsibly urge viewers to trust the accuracy of the information they are receiving?

Posted by Ralph Dratman | Report as abusive

HelloThe “mainstream media” organizations have been tools of deception for so long. They have told outright lies and been caught doing it. We now have to rely on new media such as Asia Times on line, Al Jazeera, Daily Star and more to tell us the truth – truth peeks out from Reuters more often these days, but not always.The swine flu hype is a good example of orchestrated liesand the failure to cover the Ukrainian H1N1 with apparently recombinant 1918 flu elements is another. Another lie is the hype of “recovery” -there is no recovery for the American people unless the American people abandon the banks and congress and do it themselves.Another whopper is even Reuters permitting the Fed to be referred to as a “government agency”. It is a for- profit organization of/by/for the banks.Sorry, but the American people have not been well-served by the media.

Posted by grandpa | Report as abusive

When will the news media return to working for the public good? It has been more than 100 years of collusion with the elite banking and political elite. Quote by David Rockefeller “… it would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government …” – David Rockefeller in Baden-Baden, Germany 1991, thanking major media for keeping secret for decades the movement of the prophetic one world government.How can we trust the very people who are hearding us to our ends.

Posted by CJ | Report as abusive

A question for the panel: I have noticed local media outlets using various social media sites as sources of information in recent stories. For instance, citing recent posts on personal sites as a source. While these sources are now ubiquitous–and some may indeed contain up-to-date information on certain individual–the information you find on them is hardly reliable. Do you see news outlets continuing to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools for information?

Posted by Nathan | Report as abusive

Report the news,forget the personal opinion. If you want to be known as a news organization,do just that ,report the news. Stop being a cheer leader for the liberal side. I want a balanced report,not the opinion of some doed in the wool liberal joker. Most of the major networks are bias,you cant denie that,be a little more objective. Your ratings prove what the people want. The worst offenders are the two soft spoken yummies,butter woulent melt in their mouth,females. They are like listening to Opera or some soap opera! Where have all the real news men gone,they are going the same direction as,what once were the worlds greatest newspapers,down the toilet. THE FIGURES DONT LIE!

Posted by thomas wandless | Report as abusive

The last 12 months of news coverage has been an embarrassment to the free world! The slants, bias and refusal to ask the important questions has made the word journalism into a derogatory term. Wake up journalists and start reporting not taking dictation.

Posted by Connie | Report as abusive

The MSM lost credibility because of zealous reporters not vetting or fact-checking sensational stories from dubious annonomous sources. Also it is quite obvious that MSM is constantly being manipulated into reporting what is nothing more then political spin as a credible story.It is my opinion that MSM is just as much to blame for the ten’s of thousands of innocent lives that have been murdered by the Bush/Chenny Cabal.The seperation of truth from political spin was sacraficed for invitations to power-broker dinner parties.

Posted by Alejandro Quinonez | Report as abusive

As a reader and a citizen, with a degree in journalism from back when it meant journalism, I never cease to be amazed at how journalism has gone from reporting the facts (and doing the digging to find out what the facts are) to reporting what he said, she said, they said, as if all versions are equal and the public can sort it out. This appears to be the new standard in handling politics, public affairs, and national issues. How can anyone trust journalists when the journalists prefer to present argument over fact?

Posted by Art | Report as abusive

Can you really trust someone who is truly objective?

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

Here the US the media is ridiculously bias. Like our politics in recent years the media is far to one side or the other and its hard to trust any one source. In recent years you have daily news reporters getting fired for trying to air stories they knew were not true, but would adversly affect a political figure (Dan Rather I think). Then on the other hand you have news claiming to be fair and balance, but there is no doubt in any watchers mind that each reporter reporting is far to the right (some exceptions may apply but in general its true) Then you have daily news casters highjacking the daily news so they can spin their view. Its rather pathetic no one has created a truely un bias news station. Reuters is the closest thing to un bias I have found but then again many AP reporters are bias in one way or another to the causes they believe in….so I guess we are stuck researching for ourselves and developing our own opinions…could be worse

Posted by edsall hilty | Report as abusive

If I want or need to know what is going on along with some of the probable outcomes (a context in which those things that are likely to affect me, and my community can be understood and rationalized)I find myself reading the foreign press (London Times, Le Figaro, etc.)as well as national papers. Unfortunately, the newspapers (and broadcast media) don’t get the picture. Whether they are too busy chasing advertisers or pandering to the pols is anyones guess. The simple fact is that the media must understand that unbiased news or reports of events necessarily include things that are often unpleasant and further that the outcomes may be contrary to ones personal views. That’s too bad.Readers and views go to sources that meet or exceed their expectations. Any media outlet that doesn’t get it,(lots of newspapers going down the tubes these days) won’t be around too long.Further, the media has to be accurate. And, the media has to have ethics. I know it’s old fashioned, but it works and it’s infinitely superior to tiing oneself in knots trying to be politically correct.

Posted by C M Boyles | Report as abusive

A media source called “Editor & Publisher” points out that all the American media fell for a politically correct lie and propagated it to the country. They reported “Second Cop — Not Kimberly Munley — Brought Down Fort Hood Killer.” It just sounded so much better to credit a woman instead of a black man for the deed. There was no checking internet sources for accuracy.

Posted by Timuchin | Report as abusive