Editorial: Press must build trust by constantly monitoring its reports and presentation
It's a journalistic canon that always seemed to hold true: If you've ticked off both sides of an issue, then you've done a good job.
Biased? No. Right down the middle just like aspiring reporters learned to do in J-school. If only one side contacting you was angry, then it is more than likely the story deserved a second look.
These days, however, life as a journalist isn't so simple. Both sides could be calling and both sides might have a point. Or neither side. Or maybe there is more than one side to consider.
"Media bias" has become such a prevalent term -- it's uttered nearly every day by the incoming president, for example -- all news organizations need to take a closer look at what they are writing or saying, or selecting as news. The credibility of the media is at stake as is its vital role in American democracy.
The latest Gallup poll on trust in the media shows Americans' confidence and trust in the mass media (newspapers, television and radio) at an all-time low. Only 32 percent say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. And when broken down by political party, only 14 percent of Republicans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. That lack of trust has resulted in readers seeking out those sources that only serve to reinforce their views rather than provide a balanced view.
But other studies show there is a thirst for local news and readers are looking to local news sources like the Daily Herald to provide it.
We take our responsibility to provide a balanced report seriously in order to earn our readers' trust. Sometimes, yes, we take umbrage at getting lumped in to the attacks on the "mainstream media." Do critics really mean our suburban daily is deliberately trying to sabotage a national political candidate? Or are they focused on national media and assuming we have an agenda too?
The thing is, it doesn't matter. However we are being judged, fairly or unfairly, means we can't be cavalier when the word bias is used.
On this page, you will find a point of view. That's what an opinion page in a newspaper is meant to have. And during an election, we present our view on candidates and issues. That's an important role of the media that we do not shrink from nor apologize for. But the page is also a home for differing opinions, readers and columnists alike. We work hard to provide all sides an opportunity to state their views.
It's clear, though, that we, like our national brethren, need to continually monitor our news headlines, story selection and word choice. We, like our readers, need to also monitor our news sources and be sure what we print is not tainted by bias and point it out when it is.
On the flip side, we need to continue to be a voice in the communities we serve. We aim to earn your trust by listening more, engaging you more and keeping in mind that our suburban readers represent a variety of viewpoints.