What's the matter with media?
Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center. He also acts as director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (formerly the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press) and the Pew Global Attitudes Project. He was President of The Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989. In 1989, he founded Princeton Survey Research Associates, an attitude and opinion research firm specializing in media, politics, and public policy studies. He served as founding director of surveys for the Times Mirror Center 1990-1992, and was named its Director in 1993. He is a past president of American Association of Public Opinion Research and the National Council on Public Polls. In 2005, he received the American Association of Public Opinion Research's highest honor, the Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement. He is a frequent press commentator on the meaning and interpretation of opinion poll results and the co-author of four books, including, mostly recently, America Against the World (Times Books). He received an A.B. degree from Seton Hall University in 1964 and studied graduate sociology at Rutgers, the State University, from 1964 to 1966.
Question: Does the American public trust the news media?
Andrew Kohut: Well the American public is more distrustful of the news media than it’s been for some time. But it’s been distrustful of the news media for some time. The public is worried about the political agenda of the media – whether it gets the story right; whether it’s . . . it’s a watchdog for its own sake rather than for the sake of protecting the public interest. They worry . . . It worries about sensationalism; that the media is . . . is too focused on sensationalism. On the other hand, the public is, you know, has a casual (laughter) . . . a casual connection to serious things in the world. But that isn’t to say for the most part and for most people the over emphasis, especially in the cable world, on the Paris Hiltons and the Lindsay Lohans is very troubling to people.
Question: How is media consumption changing?
Andrew Kohut: Well the thing that’s changing media consumption more than anything else is the Internet rising as a primary source of news; and the fact that newspapers and other traditional media – broadcast television – are taking it on the chin. And in particular, newspaper readership is . . . is . . . is really . . . is really hard hit not only by the Internet – the Internet is . . . is . . . is . . . given a . . . given a big . . . has really hurt it a lot – but newspapers have been going down now for . . . for the past . . . for the past decade or more. So these new generations, younger generations of people got their news out of cable, or television; and the newspaper is not so much the indispensable part of life that it is for people who are my age and older.
Question: What issues are not receiving enough coverage?
Andrew Kohut: I think there’s a lot more interest in serious news than . . . than the media gets. And that’s a consequence of the economics of television these days, and even the Internet. What moves the needle on cable news, and even in terms of Internet hits, is the intense . . . the intense interest of relatively small groups of people. The tabloid audience . . . If you’re . . . If you’re interested in tabloid stuff, you’re really very, very interested. And so if you put tabloid material in . . . on a . . . on a . . . on a platform, you can . . . you can go from one percent to three percent, and that’s a 300 percent increase. And that’s golden in terms of money. But there’s a larger percentage of people who feel cut out from . . . from the media. They’re not interested in their . . . in the . . . in the tabloid stuff. They’re not so interested in public policy that, you know, they watch all the Sunday morning shows; but you know the typical news viewer will turn the television on or turn on the Internet – well the Internet’s a different story because they can seek things out – but especially television and feel lost; and even in print these days feel somewhat lost.
Recorded on: 9/14/07
The way in which we assess information has changed so much with the advent of the Internet that traditional media outlets are taking it on the chin, Kohut says.
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