Russ Mitchell: An American Perspective

WKYC anchor and former network anchor Russ Mitchell gave me his thoughts on statistics that show a majority of Americans distrust the mass media.

Russ Mitchell giving his thoughts on statistics that show a majority of Americans distrust the mass media.

Mitchell has been in the broadcast news industry for more than three decades – local television for 10 years, followed by CBS for 20 years and just more than a year ago returned to local television in Cleveland.  The statistics associated with the American mass media will be compared to my research on the declining trust in the media in the Czech Republic. Mitchell touches on political coverage, the dangers of the Internet and other factors contributing to the American public’s skepticism of the media.

“It’s the Wild West”

Mitchell gives an example from his time at CBS – when someone “reputable” from the network tweeted that Steve Jobs had passed away…when he hadn’t.

The Internet does not require honesty nor attribution, and even in the case of respected networks such as CBS, mistakes are made. Mitchell says mistakes like this happen often, repeatedly calling the Internet, “the Wild West.” He says it’s made news junkies skeptical of what they read.

With the Internet at our fingertips, the race to dispense news on every platform has become more competitive.

“There’s no excuse to go on the air with wrong information just because somebody else has it.”

Mitchell goes back to coverage of the Chardon High School shooting. He says a neighboring station was reporting the name of someone who passed away. Channel 3 had not confirmed that name yet and chose not to release it on the air. The name ended up being correct, but, “we all felt better because we had confirmed it ourselves.”

Unlike the process at Channel 3, Mitchell says many times there are not the same checks and balances of confirming information before it’s published on the Internet. He guaranteed me that if I tweeted after the interview that the Channel 3 building was on fire, people would pay attention. “There’s no way that you’re ever going to have some sort of gatekeepers on the Internet, just in a general way.” He says we have to accept that, and rely on reputable news sources that we trust.

Click here for the declining trust in the Czech media.

 

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