Media Moves

Americans concerned deals may heighten bias in news coverage

August 16, 2019

Posted by Yvonne Zacharias

A newly released Gallup poll conducted June 24 to July 11 has found that Americans are most concerned that the deal trend could lead to great bias in news coverage.

More than nine in 10 Americans are “very” (66 per cent) or “somewhat” (26 per cent) concerned that the owners’ views would influence coverage if a large company purchased their local news organization. Meanwhile, 77 percent of U.S. adults expressed concern that new owners would cover less news unique to their local area. Thirty-five per cent are very concerned and 42 per cent are somewhat concerned. 

Slightly fewer Americans overall worry about budget cuts, including 33 per cent who are very concerned and 40 per cent who are somewhat concerned. A recent recent Pew study found that most Americans think their local news media are doing well financially, despite evidence to the contrary.

The public’s general lack of awareness about the financial difficulties facing many local news organizations may diminish their fears about budget cuts in local news coverage. 

The results are similar among all relevant subgroups of Americans, including party, age and education, as well as by different attention to local news. 

Previous research from Gallup and the Knight Foundation established that perceived bias in news coverage is a top concern for Americans in the current politically polarized climate. The 2017 American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy study likewise found that most Americans see political bias in news coverage (45 per cent said “a great deal” and 38 per cent “a fair amount”).

The latest Gallup/Knight polling builds on these findings and shows that Americans’ greatest concern about the trend of ownership consolidation of local news is the potential for political bias seeping into their local news coverage. This concern is far greater than concerns about potential budget cuts or a decrease in unique local news coverage. Perceived bias in the news reduces trust, which could erode overall trust in local news as an institution.  

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