Voting on the Media

As if newspapers needed more lackluster news (about themselves, that is), a new Harris Poll delivers some as it analyzes consumers’ attitudes toward media coverage of the presidential election.

One section of the poll (fielded in the middle of October) asked people how often they go to various media when seeking news about the election. The proportion of respondents saying they go to a particular source “all the time” was highest for cable news stations (31 percent), followed by local TV news (27 percent), network TV news (24 percent) and local newspapers (22 percent). Seven percent cited “national newspapers, like The New York Times or USA Today.” Despite the efforts major dailies have made to establish an online presence as their print audience dwindles, just 6 percent of respondents included national newspapers’ Web sites in the “all the time” category.

Harris also asked respondents to say how much they trust various media “to provide fair and balanced reporting of the presidential election.” Given their long-standing presence in their communities, one would have expected local newspapers to score well in these standings. Instead, they had just a middling showing. Cable news stations had the highest number of respondents expressing “a great deal” of trust in the fairness of their coverage (19 percent), with local TV news the runner-up (14 percent). Network TV news came in third (12 percent), a percentage point ahead of local newspapers. National newspapers lagged a bit farther behind, at 9 percent. National newspapers’ Web sites scored just 5 percent here.