Getting Press readers, writers on the same page

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Despite greeting each other every morning and spending so much time together, often in jammies and slippers over a cup of hot coffee, newspaper reporters and readers apparently don’t know each other very well.

That’s the conclusion of a new study called “Americans and the News Media: What they do — and don’t — understand about each other.”

Researchers with The Media Insight Project surveyed more than 2,000 adults in the general population and more than 1,100 journalists nationwide.

The project found that the public and journalists share some expectations:

• 63 percent of people prefer news coverage with mostly facts and some analysis … and 66 percent of journalists expect this is what the public wants.

But the public doesn’t see what it expects:

• 42 percent think the news veers too far into commentary.

• 35 percent have a negative view of news organizations.

There’s room to improve some basic understanding, according to the study.

• Half of the public doesn’t know what “op-ed” means.

• More than 40 percent don’t know what “attribution” means.

• Roughly 30 percent don’t know the difference between an “editorial” and a “news story.”

Journalists come up short in the understanding department, as well.

According to the study:

• People generally are more frequent, deeper and more active news consumers than journalists give them credit for.

• The public trusts their favorite sources of news and individuals more than journalists think they do.

The study also clearly showed areas where trust can grow further.

• 68 percent of people say the media should offer more information about sources … and 66 percent of journalists agree.

• 48 percent of people say journalists should explain how a story was reported … and 42 percent of journalists agree.

• 44 percent of people say news organizations should explain their policies better … and 48 percent of journalists agree.

According to researchers, “A key factor in the erosion of Americans’ trust of their news media is a failure to communicate: We have a public that doesn’t fully understand how journalists work, and journalism that doesn’t make itself understandable to much of the public.”

OK, so now what?

On Friday, we’ll define some basic newspaper terms, and on Sunday, we’ll outline steps The Press will take to increase understanding.

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