Whenever the media in America does anything that someone somewhere doesn’t like, the response is now predictable: X and X is why the media has such low approval ratings.
Now, that is in fact… a fact. Only 32 percent of Americans have any kind of trust in the media, according to Gallup. This appears to lend credence to the fact that the media has screwed up so badly that it has badly lost the faith and trust of broad swaths of the public – a momentous majority, to be exact.
But then a more incisive look shows that this is nonsense – for one simple reason: ALL American institutions have a humongously low approval rating.
The American Congress has approval ratings lower than 19% as at January 8. Only 35% have any trust in congress, essentially at par with the media. As at August 25, only 37% of Americans viewed banks positively. As at July last year, perception of the Supreme court was also at a record law in Gallup’s 16-year trending history, falling to 42%.
In fact, out of 15 tracked institutions, as the diagram below shows, only 3 institutions trend more positive than negative.
Essentially, a huge majority of American institutions are viewed negatively, not just the media.
Americans have lost faith in institutions – in groups of people coming together to form a collective that seeks to engage with the American public.
Individual journalists will most certainly have high ratings – I can imagine Anderson Cooper, Bill O’Reilly, Christopher Wallace, Rachel Maddow and others having high approval ratings. But as an institution called The Media, they will all tank.
The only way the media can have high ratings is to no longer be an institution.
That’s the new reality.
So this is not a question of soul-searching, and media leaders need to stop this new group think and engage critically. It’s evolution. Society is evolving in the way it sees all elite, all mainstream collectives, all peoples who appear to have a self-interest in addition to the public interest.
When institutions do better, then the media will do better. Which is most likely never. Because the world has changed. Power has changed hands to the people. Everything has turned upside down.
And no, it’s never going to go back to what it was.
PS: And that is of course, despite the fact that Trump has set a new record for inaugural approval rating. Only 45 percent approve of him as at inauguration.