What Responsibility Does The News Media Have To The Public?

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In the middle of the 20th century, television network leadership believed that providing news was a public service. News wasn’t expected to make money for national broadcasters. During that time CBS, for example, built up a high-quality news division, with distinguished journalists such as Edward R. Murrow opposing McCarthyism and Walter Cronkite, who became “the most trusted man in America,” anchoring a highly respected nightly news broadcast watched by tens of millions. CBS also created foreign news bureaus around the world to inform the American public about international issues.

Network news was something that great numbers of Americans relied upon and could share; it gave them a common set of facts upon which they could have discussions and debates.

Then came cable television. Instead of three channels (ABC, CBS, and NBC) dividing up a big, diversified national audience, cable TV came along and targeted narrow niche audiences. Instead of spending big money to reach a mass audience, advertisers could spend less money and reach the narrow demographics they were really seeking.

With the 24-hour news cycle, growing competition, and challenging economic conditions, many news outlets changed their focus to consider ratings and speed rather than journalistic ethics. They often mix factual and opinion statements during the "news", and design their programs to influence rather than inform.

Conservatives and liberals both are influenced by political appeal of
statements but conservatives tend to have more distrust towards mainstream media. Some polls show that more than half of Americans don’t trust the media to tell them the truth. But this distrust isn’t something that only began in the last election cycle. This trust has been eroding slowly and steadily for 30 or 40 years.

The politically aware and digitally savvy are able to distinguish between facts and opinions according to this research -

Is the media responding to the demands of public, being greedy, or trying to influence public opinion?

How do we hold them responsible without stepping on freedom of press?

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be
limited without being lost.” - Thomas Jefferson