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Barely Half of Americans Say News Media Get Facts Right

Poll: Majority of those questioned also support licensing of journalists and fines for inaccuracy.

December 29, 1996|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A bare majority of Americans in a poll says the news media usually "get the facts right" and substantial numbers say journalists are arrogant and cynical.

Majorities also expressed support for curbing journalists. They said news people should be licensed like doctors or lawyers and should be subjected to fines when their reporting is inaccurate or biased.

The poll of 3,004 adults, made public earlier this month, was conducted by Louis Harris & Associates between Nov. 8 and Nov. 30. It was commissioned by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a nonprofit research organization. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Most people questioned said journalists had the same traits as the rest of the country, but some parted company from that view: 42% said news people are more arrogant, 31% said they are more cynical, 33% said they are less compassionate and 34% said they are more biased. Twenty percent said they were less honest than most people.

Forty-four percent said the news media are "often inaccurate" and just over half--51%--said the media usually "get the facts straight."

Only one participant in three said the media "deal fairly with all sides" in political and social reporting and 74% said they saw political bias in the news.

Sixty-five percent said it was not the job of journalists to point out "what they believe are inaccuracies and distortion in the statements of public figures."

In terms of policing journalism, 50% said they favor making it easier for people to sue for inaccurate or biased reporting; 53% said they favor licensing journalists; 70% said courts should be able to fine the news media for inaccuracies and bias.

And 84% agreed with this statement: "The government should require that the news media give equal coverage to all sides of a controversial issue."

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