What IS the state of journalism in America today? Thanks to our Forum Family, we have a much better idea.

In the weeks leading up to The State of Journalism & the News on March 16, 2018, The Connecticut Forum partnered with the Hartford Courant – the oldest, continuously published newspaper in the United States – in a campaign to encourage dialogue and debate about the role of the press in America today.

We asked:

  • How has the general level of nastiness in the news today affected people? Are they angry, tense or just alienated?
  • What do you want from the media that you are not getting?
  • Why do so many people say they want unbiased, unfiltered news yet turn to outlets that validate their point of view?
  • Have we — as a society — lost our ability to listen to opinions different from our own?

You responded…in spades.

Here’s a round-up of your feedback. We’ll continue to post updates to this page and welcome your ideas at info@ctforum.org.

How has the general level of nastiness in the news affected people? Are they angry, tense or just alienated?

The nastiness in the news spews out negative energy with a ‘shock and gawk’ approach.  The news is all about tragedy, wrongdoing and threats – of all kinds. This comes at us from everywhere.  From our phone news streams and alerts, the print media and headlines like “Trail of Carnage” in Bold, 72-point, capital letters, TV alerts with deafening tones that interrupt programming, even our cars ‘scream’ at us if there is even a small storm, or some street puddles in the forecast by taking over the GPS screen. Of course we are angry, annoyed, tense and feel a sense of helplessness. But like anything in life, how we choose to deal with it remains in our control.  Some choose to change their behaviors to avoid trouble, like home schooling their children, not flying or staying home at all costs.  Some meditate.  Some tune the news out by “disconnecting.” Some reward nasty news by engaging in the nastiness. Some simply share suggestions toward positive resolutions.  I recommend the latter.  If we try to work together toward returning truth, civility, and a more balanced and responsible approach to the news maybe, like a block of clay, we can mold the world back into shape.  This Forum is a great start. Sandy R.

I would like a reduction in reporting that reacts to news events and comments from public persons as if they are personal insults to the journalist or his or her beliefs. It is one thing to be analytical about the effects events and words spoken may have on the country’s citizens or institutions and another to express personal emotions and attitudes as if all listeners share them. This applies to the full spectrum of public commentary from the hard right to the extreme left. The audience is being told what to think and pressed to agree. This “join our team” perspective could be the source of some of the division the media is observing. Media has the power to shape public opinion and that power can be used to unite as well as to discern.  Jane M.

I want more balance.  I lean liberal but I read at least two conservative pubs, WSJ and the National Review.  I think WNPR tries hard, and are doing more lately, but even more would be good.  I also think more fact checking is a great idea, though they have to pick true fact checkers, made up of researchers from both sides, merging the two. I think overall, we have a lot of media opportunities.  I can’t get to them all, as voracious as I am (too much so, I think.)  One thing they could do is have reporters with a more holistic beat.  Science was stunned by the emergence of Chaos Theory (that revolutionized the understanding of dynamic systems), that contemplates many disparate disciplines, because most scientists ae siloed into very narrow specialties.  This is how they probably missed the force of 2016 voters.  They didn’t know how to connect the dots. Chris K.

Such a wonderful question. One thing that I want – and that I am missing – is PERSPECTIVE along a historical arc. That doesn’t mean editorializing – it means how unusual is this in the arc of history. So much now is immediate and emotional – and I think perspective would help! Bernie P.

I grew up with the BBC in England and was used to VERY direct interviewing and questioning of officials, politicians and those in the regional and national spotlight. I would like much more rigorous interviewing and coverage here. It feels like generally there is a lot of “soft questioning” and not the same demand for answers and transparency and rigor when dealing with those in power. I understand the current problem that has cast the media as the enemy and this does nor help; but I believe it is time to increase the media pressure. If you have ever heard “Hard Talk” interviews on the BBC, you’ll know that the hard questions get asked and asked again and again, until there are some clear responses on the record. I’d like A LOT more of this in the US media. Judy B.

I’ve noticed on NPR that some shows have young people talking with all their intonations and jargon, and some programs seem aimed at retirees, but I’d like to see a blending, as suggested by the political pts of view from previous question. Our global problem is isolation from other perspectives than our own affirming circle, by age, gender, interests, etc. My particular issue is that many babyboomers and their children are disconnected, with a lack of sharing and respect from millennials toward the parents who raised them with great generosity that seems to be forgotten. I am not alone in this feeling of rejection and unappreciative behavior from our overindulged adult Children. It is an epidemic. Can journalists blend various generations on parenting, etc? Thanks! Anne S.

I think that the emotions resulting from the banter between the White House and the various news outlets have lead to public anger, frustration, tension and alienation because the public is being barraged by so many polarized opinions. Who and what do you believe? We need to practice “civil discourse” that endeavors to portray stories in an objective and equitable way. Blending conservative and liberal news outlets much like presidential debates may allow our population to make better judgements about the news and enable a consensus to emerge. In these debate formats, we can utilize academics to confirm the accuracy of the material in an effort to avoid individual biases. We also have to get a better handle on Russian and Chinese meddling in the news process so that is NOT a factor in creating public opinion. Civil discourse allows understanding the opposing view without trying to change their view. Time and connection hopefully facilitates compromise.  The concept of “fake news” is disruptive and polarizing and getting past it is our first goal. So far , the president’s only “checks and balance”is our freedom of speech and we have to increase its credibility. Unfortunately, money drives the news marketplace rather than truth. Bob B.

What do you want from the media that you are not getting?

Well, simply put: The Story. The issue. The essence. Presented with all deliberate dialectic integrity. I’m exhausted with media’s preoccupation of following a specific “reality”; a tiresome, predictable pursuit by way of distraction.  A chase by a perpetrator’s casual toss of some slightly shiny and vaguely round thing lobbed in no particular direction with little effort. There are no multi-multiple, differing or conflicting realities.  There is only reality.  Singular.  Sure, it can be difficult to discern, often hidden or deliberately disguised.  In fact, that’s precisely what it’s often designed to be.  And the cause for the profession of journalism. It seems to be en vogue by mainstream media (no, not the alternative appropriated definition of “MSM”) (I havta say that inadvertently but rather elegantly illustrates my soon-to-be point), anyway, by mainstream media to accept and equate propaganda created to counter reality as an equally valid “alternative” reality.  The damage is done when media allocates enormous resources, time in the blanket coverage of a lie in what otherwise should be but an explanatory moment or two of an incidental to the issue — not becoming the issue.  The “alternative” should be identified, pointed at, and appropriately mocked or at least shamed, not for Jerry Springeresque purpose, but to extract a price for devaluing public discourse and defrauding public policy.  Imagine Hitler’s coverage by today’s media.  Imagine social media trend towards fascism.  Americans Eric Sevaried, Walter Cronkite, et al relentlessly mocked the leaders of the Axis, not in service to their liberalism (tho they were) or their idealism (that too) or their fair-and-balanced ethos (using the unviolated definition), but in service to describing existential reality, using terms and rhetoric required by the moment, delivered without ego, promotion, or in retributional fear (some in spite of it). Sorry for the length of this – the short of it being the media must recognize there are no multiple realities and that “alternative” should NOT be given the weight, profundity, megaphone, air time, resources that it is so eagerly granted;  it should be described by the media exactly as cheaply as it was sold to the media in the dogged pursuit of truth.  When that is the standard, it won’t matter if the reporter is liberal or woman or gay or sexy in a miniskirt or NRA approved or evangelically canonized. “It’s a Republic, if you can keep it.”– Benjamin Franklin upon brewing asked what form of government the Philadelphia delegates had created. I prolly didn’t even really answer the question, huh? Thank all of you at The Connecticut Forum for what you do and the spirit in which you do it! James M.

How much honest, non-biased info is printed?  “Fake News” Bessie A.

I want to hear/read
This side
That side
Something in the middle
(all in one article or newscast)
and I’ll make up my own mind Joan B.

I’ll start by saying that some media outlets, such as NPR, are clearly making an effort to provide balanced news reporting, but I feel there could be more of that. What I want from the media that I’m not getting is this: TRULY balanced reporting of factual events. I follow both CNN and Fox, and the spin they each put on the same exact event makes my head spin! Beyond spin, they also each seem to entirely focus on reporting (or ignoring) events that prove (or disprove) their viewpoint – resulting in confirmation bias. This is a complicated world, and nobody is perfect in any political party, and we need media to stop trying to demonize or whitewash our politicians. CNN and Fox are extreme examples, but I think almost all media outlets suffer from the same confirmation bias to varying degrees. Thank you for starting this thought campaign! I love it! Ginny K.

How to use my power as a citizen to influence laws. How to use the system to defeat bigots, extremists, etc. Anonymous

I’m afraid that I have become suspicious of the news media in all shapes. There is much too much sensationalizing and bias.  I would like to have an outlet to read news about any subject from different angles and opinions. There are many newsworthy events that get buried or are not reported at all while the news is caught up in the chaos of the Trump administration.  It should not get as much news coverage as it does. Norma F.

Reliable, unbiased facts.  The slant has become so pronounced that the words nearly slide off the page.  The sources that, in my youth, were considered unimpeachable (NY Times, CBS News, Time/Newsweek) have disappeared or gone rogue.  Machiavellian thinking seems to rule the day ~ “we don’t have to be objective because the other side is WRONG!” In order for me to form reasoned opinions nowadays, I feel I must consult a number of different (biased but spread across the spectrum) sources and figure out where the truth probably actually lies in amongst all the noise. The average person is not going to do this…so the average person is going to remain uninformed, and continually form a biased view of critical issues. Linda M.

I want the truth, I want news that is not driven by an ulterior motive.  Also, it seems news outlets today all cover the same narrow band of topics and each has a different set of “facts”.  There is so much going on in the world, why do major news outlets provide a platform to reality TV stars or other things that are just not important and create a distorted view of the world? Kim D.

I feel like the media is chasing the “shiny objects”  and neglecting some really big stories that are going on.  Most of what is discussed on talk shows and on news is important and should be discussed but there is a lot of repetition in the coverage while other very important stories are not getting covered or getting  minimal coverage. Kathy T.

I feel that the news is just acting as an echo.  Someone says something and it is reported.  There is no in-depth analysis of the issues in the statement, no attempt to verify the truth or accuracy of the content or statement.  As an example, it was widely reported that the Trump administration had reduced staff, but there was not reporting to be found on those numbers in prior administrations, the need or lack there of for the number of personal that we had before the reductions, etc.  Perhaps it was something that was smart to do, or perhaps not, we as readers of the news wouldn’t know.  All I learned from the many articles was that the media didn’t like the reduction. I also here [sic] media reporters saying ‘we have to be non-partial’.  When does being ’non-partial’ also mean just reporting what is said without any analysis of content, importance, relevance, and context?  I want a study of the content so that I can decide what I think of the issue. Melissa B.

Unbiased coverage. Right now, if you are a Republican,  you tune to channels that reinforce your beliefs, and the same for the Democrats.   Gone are the days when you tuned into any news program and saw impartial news reported. Anonymous