Trust and Consequences 

In a widely reported Gallup poll released in September, respondents delivered a clear message to practitioners of mass media: "We don't trust you." According to the survey, only 32 percent of Americans said they have "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of confidence in the media's ability to "report the news fully, accurately and fairly." As Gallup noted, it was the lowest such accounting of mass media's trustworthiness in the company's 81-year polling history and represented an 8 percent decline from 2015.

How much further that level of trust has fallen since September—or even since the Nov. 8 election—remains to be seen, as we now have the specter of so-called "fake news" to contend with. In an essay for The New York Times published Nov. 18, John Herrman, who tackled Facebook's "political-media machine" in a NYT Magazine feature in August, wrote the reckoning is still to come with "fake news," which has the power to pass off any notion as true by sheer force of sharing on social media. According to Herrman, traditional media "does not yet understand how threatened its ability is to declare things true, even when they are."

For anyone with a passing belief in the importance of the Fourth Estate, this is a chilling diagnosis; and, lest we write off these concerns as "media elite" hand-wringing, "post-fact" was declared word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary.

The extent to which the ever growing chorus of criticisms against "the media" are valid will likely inform every discussion happening in journalism schools for the next four years (at least), as President-elect Donald Trump has already set himself up as the nation's Media Critic-in-Chief. Meanwhile, despite the general sense of pessimism about the news business, there are still thousands of talented journalists turning out important work—much of it drowned out in our current media landscape. Project Censored and its annual top 10 list of under- or unreported news stories shines a light on a handful of important pieces of journalism that deserved better and more attention in the past year.

Find the 2016 Project Censored reprinted on Page 9, and, maybe, take some heart that there are reporters out there who should garner more than 32 percent of your trust.

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