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Study: Trust in news media has eroded; bias and inaccuracy perceived

April 18, 2016
9:35 AM MST
The Associated Press reported on a study that says perceptions of bias and inaccuracy plague the news media. People in the gun community might agree
The Associated Press reported on a study that says perceptions of bias and inaccuracy plague the news media. People in the gun community might agree.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Perhaps it is time for this column to retire, as the Associated Press reported this morning that "trust in the news media is being eroded by perceptions of inaccuracy and bias, fueled in part by Americans' skepticism about what they read on social media."

Are these "perceptions" of inaccuracy and bias, or actual errors and spin to which Americans object? Nowhere does anyone find more mistrust of the news media than among firearms owners who have watched over the years as they have been portrayed as "gun nuts" and worse. They have watched and read news reports that they contend give more credence to information from gun control lobbying groups than information from gun rights organizations.

In the story's second paragraph, there was an unintentionally telling revelation. "Democrats," the Associated Press reported, "were more likely to trust the news media than Republicans or independents." Perhaps that's because the news is being reported in ways that Democrats and liberals agree with.

One need look no farther than Washington State to find examples of why there is distrust in the media within the firearms community. During the campaign to pass Initiative 594, the so-called "universal background check" measure, rarely was it reported that a majority of county sheriffs opposed the measure, along with the state's law enforcement firearms instructors and the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs. That the press downplayed this opposition was significant.

Only one news agency, KING, the Seattle NBC affiliate, recently reported how ineffective I-594 has been. Yet the citizens are still saddled with this law, which hasn't prevented criminals from getting guns, as witnessed by the weekend car crash and gun theft from a Bellevue gun shop. None of the guns taken from West Coast Armory were subject to a background check.

Yesterday, the Seattle Times reported that the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office had declared that a missing Arlington couple has been killed, and that two brothers identified as felons who should be considered "armed and dangerous" are being sought in connection with the case. I-594 was supposed to prevent felons from being "armed and dangerous."

Gun control has been turned into a major issue in the campaign for president, thanks to Hillary Rodham Clinton's repeated harping. Early in her campaign, she literally declared war on the National Rifle Association, which meets next month in Louisville for its annual convention. She has extended this war on guns to the firearms industry, arguing that manufacturers should be vulnerable to lawsuits because some people misuse their products.

But where has the news media been when it comes to reporting that violent crime has declined over the past several years during a period when gun sales have soared and concealed carry has expanded nationwide? When has the gun prohibition lobby been taken to task for lumping suicides and accidental deaths with actual homicides to claim that 30,000-plus people die each year from "gun violence?"

Traditional reporting and journalism are in trouble today because social media allows average citizens to communicate on a massive scale. They share facts not reported by the so-called "mainstream."

The New York Times had a piece yesterday that quoted the co-founder of Politico observing "journalists are killing journalism." Jim VandeHei told the reporter that journalists are essentially writing their own epitaphs by "stubbornly clinging to the old ways." That's a pretty sad observation about a profession that was once, and should still be, vibrant, curious and willing to challenge the status quo, rather than perpetuate it through political correctness.

The other day, KING announced that four of its veterans have opted for early retirement following long and colorful careers with the Seattle station. For Jean Enerson, Linda Byron, Jeff Renner and Dennis Bounds, this coming Friday is the day they all pull the plug. Considering the New York Times article and the AP report, perhaps they share a good idea and this might signal the beginning of a trend.