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Editor: News Outlets Must Do Better to Regain Consumers' Trust

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023   

Americans continue to have little faith in the mainstream news media, with many people under the age of 30 saying they trust information from social media nearly as much as local Michigan or national news outlets. Now more than ever, Americans need news literacy and an understanding of how to discern the truth and get the most out of the media, editors and educators said.

Randy Essex, senior content director at the Detroit Free Press, offered some explanations for the public's declining trust, starting with the role he feels conservative radio and television has played for a generation.

"The rise of this clearly partisan media is a business model, and part of that model is to sow distrust of established sources of information, whether that be national media or the government," Essex said. "The statement, essentially, is 'Believe us, not them; we're on your side.'"

Essex said other factors include the consolidation in the radio industry, the closing of hundreds of local newspapers and the pervasiveness of social media. Studies show that Michigan has seen a 26% decrease in the number of newspapers since 2004. The loss often creates so-called "news deserts", where communities no longer have a source of local news.

Essex called rebuilding public trust in the news media "a tremendous uphill battle" and maintains that transparency and ethics are paramount.

"Top editors need to communicate with the public, and explain the work that we're doing and counter unfounded criticism of it. When we make mistakes, we have to be transparent about that, too," he said. "And we need to connect in person and be in the community when we can. "

Essex stressed ultimately journalists must show the public their worth through their work.

"Locally, the city council is the end of the debate," he said. "The real debate is happening out in the community, or behind closed doors in board rooms, and it's our job to find that real issue, not just cover what's happening on the surface. "


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