Americans: News Media Inaccurate, Biased

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A majority of Americans say the news media are inaccurate and biased.

A new study by the Pew Research Center says nearly two-thirds of Americans have come to that conclusion. That's a complete reversal from when Pew first asked that question in 1985. Back then, only 34 percent of respondents believed news stories were frequently inaccurate.

Pew also found that 74 percent of respondents believe stories tend to favor one side of an issue over another, that is up from 66 percent just two years ago.

Pew Research didn't attempt to gauge how shrinking newspapers, reduced staffs, and other cutbacks at news organizations are affecting people's perceptions, although the reductions probably haven't helped, said Michael Dimock, an associate director for the center.

The financial problems come from a large decline in advertising sales that generate most of the media's revenue. Newspapers' print editions have been losing readers to the Internet, and broadcasters' audiences are fragmenting in an age of the many choices on cable TV and satellite radio.

Newspaper ad sales plunged by 29 percent, or nearly $5.5 billion, during the first half of this year, according to the Newspaper Association of America. TV ad revenue on broadcast stations dropped by 12 percent, or nearly $3 billion, during the same period, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising.

The budget squeeze "means facts don't get checked as carefully as they should," according to Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times.

But Keller believes many media outlets still go to great lengths to get the facts right and own up to their mistakes when the information is wrong.

"The great flood that goes under the heading 'news media' has been poisoned by junk blogs, gossip sheets, shout radio and cable-TV partisans that don't deserve to be trusted," Keller told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

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