Study finds millennials lack trust in national media


Students all over campus can be seen getting their news in different forms from untraditional outlets. 

But according to a five year study by the Pew Research Center, millennial’s trust in the national news media has dropped 13 percent since 2010. In 2010, 40 percent of students believed the news media has a positive impact, compared to 27 percent today.

There are many variables which could have caused a decline in trust towards the national news media, including the discovery that Bryan Williams overplayed stories he was covering, said Susan Keith, a professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies.

The two most commonly named national news media, CNN and Fox News, are also the most oppositely polarized and this could also lead to distrust in news outlets, Keith said.

“The polarization of some of what passes for broadcast news and the rise of what a lot of people see as right winged punditry (replaced) news reporting,” Keith said. “Political polarization of the media may have a large play in why many millennials do not trust the news media.”

Rutgers students have different perceptions on how they view the media.

“I don’t trust the news because there is quite a lot of political bias involved,”Joshua Siepmann, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior said. “I think the media as a whole is not a reliable source of information.”

Siepmann said he gets his news primarily from CNN, social media and word of mouth.

Millennials' loss of faith might be due to them being younger at the time and having a general idealism and optimism. As they grow older, they grow more skeptical, Jack Bratich, Department Chair of Journalism and Media Studies, said 

But in today’s era many young people get news through newer forms of media, which allow them to view articles they want to read rather than reading a newspaper or watching the news on T.V., he said. 

“I don’t think new media would lead to those institutions to lower ethical bars in such a way that young people would then begin distorting,” Bratich said. “New media has allowed more people to circulate information as news and one could argue that millennials are getting news from nontraditional sources, and seeing stories that aren’t covered by the traditionally dominant ones.”

Having various alternatives could lead to distrust of the traditionally dominant institutions and journalists have diminished fact checking in exchange for greater viewership, Bratich said.

He only gets his news from Google News and News 12 New Jersey, said Leslie Cherry, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. If he does not find the news article interesting, he does not click on it.

Millennials do not find the national news generating relevant information for their lives, Bratich said.

“The pace of news in a competitive metrics-based corporate environment has led to a situation where the main facts that matter are the number of clicks, viewers and sales," Bratich said. “It is not clear that more facts would lead to more trust in news media, as they would be part of a data flood that can lead to more passivity in our mediated world.”

Journalists such as Bill O’Riley have been accused of trading facts for viewership and ratings, he said. 

“Fox isn't looking for O’Riley to be reliable or tell the truth, but to attract a like minded demographic," Keith said.

But while media can reinforce particular biases, it is hard to say in this case how it would affect an overall increase in skepticism, he said. 

Keith had some concerns on how accurate the Pew study’s data is, given the time period that was taken.

“Trust in journalists has never been high in the U.S. and to look at a five year period is not as instructive as it might be to look at 30 years or 40 years,” said Keith.


Nick Huber

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