"Evening News" Turns An Eye On The Press

Friday was "media day" for the CBS "Evening News," as the broadcast focused on "the state of the media" in the last part of a week-long series and unveiled a new weekly feature, "Assignment America" (more about that later). And CBS released the results of a poll on the media with some rather surprising results, not all of which made Friday's show.

In introducing correspondent Anthony Mason's package on the media, anchor Bob Schieffer mentioned some of the findings of the poll, namely that 63% of respondents had "at least some confidence" in the stories reported by the press while 69% generally believe stories to be accurate. That's a pretty high number, but maybe I'm just jaded from reading all the criticism the media has gotten lately. Here are some other findings of that poll:

  • The numbers of respondents who said they felt stories reported by the media are accurate match exactly results from a 1994 CBS News poll. In both cases, 69% said they believed the media was generally accurate while 22% said inaccurate.
  • When asked, in general, how often the media tells the truth, 59% said all or most of the time while 40% said some of the time or hardly ever. When the same question was asked about members the Bush Administration, 39% said they tell the truth all or most of the time while 58% said they told the truth some of the time or hardly ever.
  • Asked to compare the media's treatment of President Bush compared to past presidents, 35% said they thought the press has been harder on the current president, 18% said the media has been easier in its coverage and 45% said he's been treated about the same as others.

    Mason's piece, which you can see here focused on how the Internet is changing the media landscape. I'll let you watch and judge for yourself (although I would personally question the use of longtime White House scribe Helen Thomas as a symbol of traditional media because I believe she has become an advocate more than a reporter over the past decade.) However BuzzMachine's Jeff Jarvis, used in the package as a symbol of the new media, is a little unhappy about what parts of his interview were left in the editing room. Here's what Jeff had to say:

    When the producer called, it's clear they had an angle in mind: citizens' journalism vs. professional journalism. They asked for stories in which I'd gone up against big media. I told him that's not the story now. I said the real story is how, with citizens' help, journalism can and must expand with new ways to gather and share news. I said I'd seen a change in the last year, with professional and amateur journalists coming closer together to this realization.

    They came to do the interview and we talked about a lot of the stuff you read here, like this, and this. But they didn't use that, apart from one line about news not being finished when we print it, which is actually a line about Dan Rather.

    More Jarvis:
    We stood in a colleague's office and, with my laptop in hand, they asked me what I wrote about. I listed a bunch of posts, including this one, where I take Ted Koppel and Aaron Brown to task and I said that.

    That ended up in the finished piece: me v. the big guys, it seemed. That fit the story they wanted to do, the one they started with: citizens v. professionals.

    And the correspondent asked whether I got mad at the big-media folks with whom I so recently worked. I mocked the question and gave him a look you can't see as I said, no, I merely get disappointed sometimes.

    That, too ended up in the finished piece. That, too, fit the story they wanted to do rather than the one they got from me.

    Now, of course, this happens all the time. This is what sours sources on the news. It's no surprise to me. It's no big deal, either. I've seen the sausage made. But I'll say what I said to that correspondent: It disappoints me. I don't care if they used more or different quotes from me. But I care about getting a story that's not as shallow as videotape.