Earlier this week, I wrote for GBH News about a study showing little support for the core principles of journalism. Joshua Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab has done an exceptionally deep dive into the numbers and has concluded that they don’t say what the study’s authors claim.
Benton’s explanation is that the Media Insight Project took unambiguous support for certain journalistic verities and watered it down by pairing it with findings that showed a more dubious view of the press. Benton writes:
Its top-line finding — summarized by a [Washington] Post headline writer as “Bad news for journalists: The public doesn’t share our values” — is bogus. Or, at a minimum, unsupported by the methodology in use here. There is no reason to believe, based on this data, that Americans have somehow abandoned the basic values of democratic governance, or that we noble journalists are left to fight the lonely fight for accountability.
But Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, one of the organizations that sponsored the study, replies at the Columbia Journalism Review that Benton’s methodology is itself flawed:
Researchers caution against trying to draw conclusions from any one individual item without considering the full set.
We fear this is the mistake Josh has made.
My quick takeaway is that Benton gets the better of the dispute. But read both pieces and see what you think.