The headline in the New York Times caught my eye; “No One Believes Anything.”
The story quoted a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and USAFacts which found that a growing percentage of Americans just don’t know what to believe in the news.
For example, 47 percent of the news consumers questioned said it was very or somewhat difficult for them to know if the information is true or not. Only 31 percent said it was very or somewhat easy to know.
On the question of “How often do you feel like you come across sources that include only one side,” 64 percent said often or always while 58 percent said they get conflicting information from different sources.
Then there is the “trust” question, and you know that is not going to go well.
A plurality of 44 percent said they have little or no trust in cable news about the government, 46 percent say they don’t trust national newspapers’ coverage, 64 percent say they have trouble believing what they read on social media and 61 percent say they have little or no trust in what the President tells them.
One of the problems is that the news is a blur; it is a constant flow from an increasing number of sources and not always fact-based. The news is often blended with commentary. When does one stop and the other begin? There is rarely a line of demarcation.
Evette Alexander, research director at the Knight Foundation, which funds journalism and research, told the New York Times, “Now more than ever, the lines between fact-based reporting and opinioned commentary seem blurred for people. That means they trust what they are seeing less. They are feeling less informed.”
The Times sought out several news consumers to see what they thought. Matt Stanley, a school administrator from Crum, West Virginia, and a registered Democrat, told the paper social media has made it even more difficult for people to know what’s really happening.
“It muddies up stuff so badly,” he told the paper. “There’s so much information that’s biased, that no one believes anything. There is so much out there, and you don’t know what to believe, so it’s like there is nothing.”
We often hear about the fog of war. Well, this is the fog of information and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see your way through.
The Times suggested that “just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself.”
But then again, what is this but another commentary about what Americans supposedly think about political news. Given the current climate, you may dismiss it as “fake news.”
Who could blame you?