A panel at the Society of Professional Journalists conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, addressed why conservatives don’t trust mainstream media and how the industry can rebuild that trust.
Rod Hicks, director of ethics for SPJ, opened the panel with the fact that distrust of the media has been increasing for the last 50 years. Leaving room for the other panelists to share their expertise on why there is so little trust in the media.
Anthony Nadler, an associate professor of media studies at Ursinus College, said the mainstream press has treated conservatives as caricatures, leading to distrust, and creating a loss of respect for journalists. “Conservatives want a media where people respect them,” Nadler said.
Associated Press reporter Tim Sullivan validated Nadler’s ideas, saying journalists should meet conservatives where they are, by diversifying their newsrooms.
Conservatives’ underrepresentation in newsrooms creates a reality where they don’t feel heard. According to an American Journalist 2022 survey, the percentage of U.S journalists who are Democrats is 36 percent. That’s higher than the overall population of 27 percent, according to a 2022 ABC News/Washington Post national poll. The survey also found that the percentage of journalists who are Republican is 3.4 percent, significantly lower than the overall percentage of adults who identify as Republican, or 26 percent. “We don’t speak conservative,” Sullivan continued by imploring journalists to go listen, and learn how to connect with Conservatives.
Emily Jashinsky, host of the conservative Federalist Radio Hour, said misinformation is creating a stronger distrust of the media. Making attendee’s wonder how you can listen to a news source that does not respect you. Jahinsky went on to say lower-income people are more likely to get their information from non-news sources like podcasts, leading to the potential for misinformation.
At this point panelists opened up to questions, and hands flew into the air.
Questions ranged from why conservatives cannot create their own newsrooms to how Trump created a stronger distrust of the media. People wanted to know how journalists should approach Conservatives to get them to talk to mainstream media?
The panelists admitted they don’t know yet.
Jahinsky spoke on her time at Trump Rallies and how no one wanted to talk to reporters, and even booed them. The panelists shared their stories with rejections from Conservatives who did not want anything to do with reporters.
The mic then found its way to founding host of NPR podcast 1A, Joshua Johnson. He gave insight of his time on 1A and how the show was invited to rallies and had a booth with a huge flag sign stating who they were, and people came to talk to them. Johnson continued to share about those that he talked to, and how they felt safe talking to 1A leading to his statement, “I cannot serve you and judge you simultaneously.” Attendee’s raised pens and phones, with one person even exclaiming, “Say that again!” Johnson repeated himself, turning to the rest of the room, before continuing to say, “All people need to know is that you will listen and validate them.”