Bad News: Knight Foundation Survey Shows Students Don’t Trust the Press

Can we blame the No-Spin Zone or the Situation Room for this?

If you look around your local college campus, or even watch the news for any amount of time, you will see that this generation — despite its inclination to grow Duck Dynasty beards — is an active bunch.

They value their constitutional rights, especially their freedom of speech One problem: none of these people are looking to join a PR agency anytime soon.

According to an insightful study from Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute, this generation really doesn’t believe much of what the press has to offer.

The study’s summary alone lets us see the dire circumstances facing our friends in journalism:

U.S. college students have complex and, in some ways, conflicting views on the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

On one hand, they are highly confident that First Amendment rights are secure, even more so than the U.S. adult population as a whole. On the other hand, many are also comfortable shuttering free speech and impeding a free press under certain circumstances.

What we discover inside is a journey of how activism and exercising constitutional rights can be embraced by others, even if the protesters and activists don’t trust the media to share what is going on through a non-filtered lens of bias, subterfuge, and overall B.S. (Watch network news during political season — can you blame the students for thinking that way?)

Here are some key numbers based on the polled U.S. college students:

  • 81 percent are “highly confident” about the security pertaining to the freedom of the press
  • 76 percent feel the same about being protected to petition the government
  • And 73 percent using their freedom of speech

There is a widening gap between these students and the rest of the nation, however.

  • 56 percent percent of U.S. adults are confident about using freedom of speech
  • 58 percent of these adults believe griping to the government is a good idea
  • And only 64 percent are solvent about the freedom of the press

As it pertains to the media in particular, no bueno:

  • The majority of college students, 59 percent, have little or no trust in the press to report the news accurately and fairly.
  • Just half of students say they would look to a traditional news organization first to get an accurate picture of what is happening in the U.S. and the world on issues they care about.
  • The rest would seek an alternative news source, including 26 percent who would consult their social media network and 20 percent who would go to newer, digital-only news sources such as BuzzFeed, Mic or Huffington Post.
  • Still, nine in 10 college students say a free press is at least as important to democracy today as it was 20 years ago, if not more so.

So there you have it — young people want to file a complaint but don’t trust anyone to listen to them. What else is new?