July 25, 2013

Respect for journalists’ contributions has fallen significantly in recent years


About three-in-ten Americans say journalists contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being, a 10-percentage-point drop from four years ago.

The business of news has itself become news, with shrinking newsrooms and questions about media bias making headlines. And in recent years, the public image of journalists and their perceived contribution to society has declined, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

Just 28% of American adults believe journalists contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being. About the same percentage (27%) think journalists contribute “not very much” or “nothing at all,” while 42% of Americans think journalists contribute “some” to society.

The survey asked Americans to rate the contributions of 10 occupational groups, and only business executives and lawyers received lower marks than journalists. Members of the military and teachers topped the list, with 78% and 72%, respectively, saying these professions contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being.

Compared with other professions, journalists dropped the most (10 percentage points) in public esteem since 2009, when 38% of Americans said journalists contributed “a lot” to society.

The most significant change in opinion occurred among women. Today, 29% of American women think journalists contribute “a lot” to society, a 17-point decrease from 2009.

The decline in the perceived contribution of journalists cuts across partisan lines. Both Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) as well as Republicans (including Republican-leaning independents) are less likely today than in 2009 to say journalists contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being. The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaners who say journalists contribute “a lot” to society dropped 10 percentage points, and the percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaners who say the same dropped eight points.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Newspapers, News Media Ethics and Practices

  1. is a former editorial intern at the Pew Research Center.


  1. Stanley Krauter4 years ago

    Journalists would get more respect if they started communicating like teachers instead of entertainers.
    Because they are always writing about today’s most important facts, journalists are distracting voters from remembering yesterday’s most impotant facts. Which is why surveys by the news media,,, and interviews by comedians with people standing in line to vote, have repeatedly shown that most voters are too ignorant to vote intelligently. And it should be obvious to anyone who is smart enough to be a journalist that there is a direct commection between a dysfunctional government and ignorant voters. Then it should also be obvious that a dysfunctional government is going to resuls in so many problems that people will be much more pessimistic about society and that attitude is going to produce negative opinions about journalists. Now, this problem could be greatly reduced if journalists would just publish an annual one week review of the year’s most important facts like a teacher would for a summer remedial education class for students who failed their regular classes. (more details available on request) But this simple solution will never happen because journalists prefer to communicate like entertainers because it is more exciting.

  2. Learn4 years ago

    It is not that journalism is not important… most of us absolutely understand how critical it is to democracy, it’s the decreasing quality of the journalistic content that is declining.

    Can’t speak for the public, but for me I don’t even mind “bias” if it’s properly researched and leads to insight. One of the biggest frustrations is the ridiculous attempt to provide a very superficial notion of “balance” where no matter what the position, we will bring out someone with an opposing view. The second major annoyance is journalists acting as stenographers wherein they merely pass on talking points with no effort to verify or scrutinize A final source of decline is conflating journalism as entertainment, trying to make it “fun”, or a competition or a horse race, rather than about communicating meaning to the recipient,

    Self inflicted wounds.

  3. Lloyd Trufelman4 years ago

    It’s imperative that the major media companies and news organizations – both “mainstream” and “new” – to join forces and form an alliance to develop an initiative designed to educate the public, as well as business and government, on the value of legitimate, professional journalism. The ongoing decline of credible mass media and concurrent rise of “content marketing” present a serious threat to a well-informed American public. Most journalists have traditionally eschewed marketing, assuming that if a good story is published, the results will be self-evident. Unfortunately this is no longer the case nowadays, where according to one report, the overwhelming majority of students in a major university’s journalism program were found not to be dedicated to journalism, but instead pursuing careers in advertising and PR, with few understanding the difference between “church” and “state”. Unless the American news industry aggressively and continually uses it own platforms to start promoting and explaining the value of the content and services that it provides, the lack of respect for journalism will accelerate and result in increasingly coarse and incoherent public discourse.