Out of touch   15/3/2006

We in the regional and local media are accustomed to patronisation being patronised by
the big city press. We comfort ourselves with the knowledge we work harder than them, we can’t afford the type of blunders they make — like spelling country towns wrong — and that we can’t bullshit our readers like they do.
We also like to think we’ve got better manners as we watch them plunder our resources without gratitude whenever a major story happens to break in our neck of the woods.
A major US poll has found that our values resonate with readers. And although the pay cheques don’t match, if pleasing your clients is the measuring stick, we’re head and shoulders above the slickers.
Americans continue to be troubled about the state of the press. But journalists themselves are troubled as well, according to “The State of the News Media 2006,” a massive series of surveys and analyses released yesterday by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a research group affiliated with Columbia University.
Local TV news and local newspapers won the most accolades from the public. Both were rated favorably by three-quarters of the respondents with majorities agreeing that local news organizations concentrated on facts rather than opinions. Such major dailies as the New York Times did not fare so well, garnering a 38 percent favorability rating.

Regional and local journalists, unlike many city counterparts, are no more likely to stand out in their community than bank officers, cops or shopkeepers. That is why the researchers’ “values gap on social issues” between journalists and the mainstream is not as wide outside the capitals. It helps that regional towns and suburbs are usually devoid of “hip” enclaves where lefty, opinionated journalism flourishes. These figures demonstrate the great divide:

In a survey of 547 journalists, 6 percent felt that belief in God is necessary to be moral; the figure was 58 percent among the general public. About 88 percent of the press, compared with 51 percent of the public, think society should accept homosexuality.
An ideological divide between the national press and the public also persists. The survey found that 20 percent of the public described themselves as liberal; the figure was 34 percent among journalists. Although 33 percent of the public deemed themselves conservative; 7 percent of the press members identified themselves as conservative. The majority of journalists — 54 percent — say they are moderates, compared with 41 percent of the public.

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