Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Americans have positive view of COVID-19 media coverage

TODD SMITH — Americans have positive view of COVID-19 media coverage

TODD SMITH

Coverage of the coronavirus outbreak has consumed much of the news media’s attention as Americans look for information in a time of high anxiety and uncertainty.

U.S. adults overall hold more positive than negative views of the news media’s coverage of the COVID-19 crisis, while their broader attitudes toward the news media are more evenly divided or more negative, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. At the same time, Republicans and Democrats continue to stand far apart in their views of the news media.

When asked in the survey to evaluate the news media’s coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak, Americans are more likely than not to think that the news media are fulfilling four key roles. For example, most Americans (59%) say the news media are providing them with the information they need while about a quarter of Americans (24%) say they are not. And about half of U.S. adults (49%) say the media coverage of COVID-19 has largely been accurate, compared with 24% who say it has been mostly inaccurate.

But there are strong partisan divides. For example, while two-thirds of Democrats (66%) say the media’s COVID-19 coverage has been largely accurate, about three-in-ten Republicans (31%) agree, a divide that is even larger between Republicans who identify as conservative and Democrats who identify as liberal.

The survey, conducted April 20-26, 2020, among 10,139 U.S. adults who are part of the center’s American Trends Panel, also finds that Americans are more split or negative in their broader views of journalists than they are toward COVID-19 coverage.

For instance, Americans are about evenly divided when it comes to their overall confidence in journalists: About half (48%) have at least a “fair amount” of confidence in journalists to act in the best interest of the public, while a similar share (52%) say they have not too much or no confidence in journalists. In fact, confidence in journalists has dropped slightly since 2018.

 

Among the other key findings:

  • Of four measures of the news media’s coverage of COVID-19, the news media receive the highest marks for whether they are keeping the public informed. Nearly six-in-ten Americans (59%) say the news media’s coverage of the outbreak is getting them the information they need, compared with far fewer – about a quarter (24%) – who say coverage is not serving that role. The remainder (17%) say that neither phrase reflects their view.
  • More Americans see the news media’s coverage of the pandemic as working for the benefit of the public (48%) and helping the country (46%) rather than benefitting the media themselves (36%) or hurting the country (34%).
  • Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are between 29 and 38 percentage points less likely than Democrats and Democrat-leaners to hold a positive view of the news media’s coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak across for different measures surveyed. Previous Pew Research Center research finds that Republicans generally express more negative sentiments of the news media than Democrats, particularly since the 2016 presidential election.
  • Fully 43% of Americans say the news media coverage of COVID-19 has been more negative than it should be. Far fewer (12%) say the tone of the coverage has been more positive than it should be. Still many Americans (44%) say the coverage had been neither too negative nor too positive.
  • More broadly, views of journalists’ overall ethics are somewhat more negative than positive. Roughly four-in-ten Americans (43%) say journalists have “very high” or “high” ethical standards, while a majority (56%) say they have “low” or “very low” standards.
  • Similar to views on coronavirus coverage, partisan divides persist over opinions toward journalists generally. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say journalists have high or very high ethical standards (64% vs. 19%), a 45-point divide that is about the same as last year.
  • Partisans are more divided in their level of confidence toward journalists than other groups of individuals. For example, the 47-point gap between Democrats and Republicans (including leaners) in the share who express at least a fair amount of confidence in journalists to act in the public interest is at least 10 points larger than the split for nine other groups of individuals asked about, such as business leaders, elected officials and religious leaders 
  • When it comes to overall ethical standards, Americans are more likely to think medical doctors (92%), police officers (73%) and religious leaders (67%) have very high or high ethical standards, while journalists (43%) are about on par with lawyers (44%).

“The findings show that during the COVID-19 outbreak, Americans are largely evaluating the news media in similar ways to how they evaluated it prior to the pandemic,” said Jeffrey Gottfried, Pew senior researcher. “Even in a time of crisis, there is continued disconnect between the two parties when it comes to attitudes toward journalists and the content they produce.”

 

Good Golly Mic: Little Richard Has Left the Stage!

Rock legend Little Richard is kicking it up with a Heavenly audience!

The performer known for such rollicking hits as “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally and many more who defined the genre and a generation, along with Elvis and the Rolling Stones – died recently in Nashville. He was 87.

Born Richard Wayne Penniman, he was one of rock and roll’s first stars, and his wild, flamboyant approach to performing was a key influence on a generation of musical giants, from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to James Brown and Michael Jackson. He was among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

While Little Richard’s dynamic sound reached all corners of the world, he also spent considerable time in Nashville at both ends of his 65-year career.

In the last decade, he split his time between his home in Lynchburg, Tenn., and the Hilton Hotel on Nashville’s Lower Broadway, overlooking his star on the Music City Walk of Fame, one of his proudest accolades, which meanders through downtown in the shadows of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Though he rarely made public appearances, locals would spot him at times – frequenting the Wendy’s drive-through and other fast food restaurants on West End Avenue, where he’d give a friendly wave to fans.

In a way, Little Richard came full circle by spending his final years in Music City. Some 60 years ago, before he was discovered, he held long residences in the famed R&B nightclubs on Jefferson Street.

He went from a club favorite to a superstar in 1955 after “Tutti Frutti” hit the airwaves. In his biography, Little Richard said he heard it for the first time on Nashville’s WLAC radio station, which boasted a 50,000-watt signal that brought R&B music to half of the United States.

A wave of electric hits followed over the next few years, including “Long Tall Sally,” “Keep a Knockin’” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly” as well as appearances in “The Girl Can’t Help It” and other early rock films. But in 1957, he abandoned rock and roll for religion, releasing three gospel albums in the early 60’s and touring the evangelical circuit.

In 1964, Little Richard returned to rock with the album “Little Richard is Back.” While his legend grew as acts like The Beatles proudly touted his influence, he never reached the same popular heights as his run in the ’50s.  Still the music and accolades continued, notably with a run of well-received albums in the early ‘70s.

That decade also saw Little Richard struggling with drug abuse. He once again sought refuge in religion and came to Nashville in 1979 to record the gospel album “God’s Beautiful City.”

He reconnected with Music City in 1994, teaming up with Tanya Tucker on a song for the “Rhythm, Country & Blues album.” The pair also performed on that year’s CMA Awards. He also expressed his admiration for modern country music, singing some of Kenny Chesney’s “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven.”

And I know Little Richard is rockin’ with the angels!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

 

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.

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