4 Reasons We've Stopped Trusting the Media

OR: 4 Reasons You're Not Going to Believe Any of These 4 Reasons

According to a recent poll, six out of 10 Americans no longer trust the media to deliver the news fairly or accurately. This certainly got the attention of management at Cracked, where after a heated discussion about whether or not we actually are the media (they eventually concluded that we're basically a kind of weather service), they decided it was important enough an issue to get to the bottom of. Though not that important, they proudly announced when they handed the chore to me.

Widespread distrust of the media is a relatively recent development. When I was growing up, such was my family's respect for the news that I would be mercilessly beaten for daring to interrupt the evening newscast. Upon such a violation, my father would roll up a copy of that day's newspaper (for added symbolic effect), climb up on top of the television hutch and jump down on me, swinging. If I flinched, then we would not get to watch the Muppets.

"Ha! Stupid kid! Ha ha ha!

So I learned to respect the news, and I gather that most other people did as well, although possibly through less horrific means. So how then did we get to the point where every word printed is now immediately cast in doubt, if not dismissed before it's even read? Here's four possible reasons:

#4. Maybe the Media's Simply Less Trustworthy Now?

Cracked has covered this before in detail, discussing obviously fake news stories that were passed off as real, and documenting the variety of ways the media disguises bullshit as fact. There are a number of reasons why the media keeps doing this, ranging from overworked reporters, to deliberately biased reporters, to completely rock stupid reporters.

"Hurricane Katrina caused global warming, you say? What a scoop!"

But although examples of this kind of foul-up are everywhere around us, it's hard to definitively say that this is a new development. Yellow journalism is old news (heh), and the rhetorical tricks used to cover up sloppy research are even older; the Greeks were using those millenniums ago during their boy-fondling debates (spoiler: the boys lost). That said, there are a few other bits of incidental evidence that suggest that journalistic quality has worsened over the past couple decades, the mere fact that the media landscape is a lot more crowded now being the biggest one. With dozens more media outlets all clamoring for the same diminishing audience, that means smaller audiences and smaller revenue streams for each outlet, which means less time and reporters to devote to solid reporting and more to stories that can be written without the reporter leaving his chair.

"Wait a Second. Why Should I Believe You?"

I obviously didn't leave my chair when writing any of this, did I?

You: "I could tell by the fact that the only things you cited were other Cracked articles."

Well fuck you, man. I can leave this chair any time I want. I just happened to be trying to conceal an enormous erection.

#3. Politics Has Ruined Everything

Another obvious explanation for the suddenly low level of trust in media is the simple observation that this is an election year in the U.S., much to everyone's dismay. Dismay, because aside from a small handful of truly undecided voters, most people's opinions on the relative merits of each political party are by now fairly set, and you've all gotten tired of thinking about it. Worse still is seeing anything in the media that doesn't align completely with whatever belief you're sporting; whether it's news critical of your views, or not critical enough of the opposing views, it rankles you because of how obviously wrong it is, and yet there's some perfectly coiffed idiot saying it on the television, goddammit Brian Williams.

"We go now to a story just breaking: Fuck Everything You Believe In."

"Wait a Second. Why Should I Believe You?"

Oh, so you're a satisfied consumer of the existing political process, are you? There's nothing you're tired of about the 24-month election season filled with weekly turdstorms about the pettiest bullshit imaginable? You think that I might be sowing distrust in the media and belittling the two major political parties to somehow create a vacuum in which Cracked's real political masters, the mole people, can slip in and seize control of the means of production?

You: "Well it sounds stupid when you say it all sarcasticy like that, but yeah, I kind of do now."

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Chris Bucholz

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