It was saddening to learn the percentage of the population that trusts the media is lower than ever - down to about 8 per cent. But the figure, in a study commissioned by Victoria University's Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, came as no surprise.

This number, like the number of people who support public transport but don't use it, has been growing for as long as I can remember.

Similarly, the number of people who do not trust politicians is growing and also hovers around the 8 per cent mark.

The most pertinent question is where those people got the information on which they based their view. From the town crier?


Unfortunately, the university did not survey the level of the media's trust in the public, which should also be at an all-time low. It's hard to have faith in your audience when it shows an increasing unwillingness to be informed and an increasing appetite to be entertained to the point of brain death.

But here, as elsewhere, the free market rules. And if people's buying and viewing habits indicate self-obsessed consumerist fantasies are all the news they can use, that is all the news they will be spoon-fed.

If people who once read a newspaper on the way to work would rather play a game on their phone, their view of the world will be shaped by games rather than newspapers.

Writing that is good for the sake of it has long ceased to be a priority, even though there is a correlation between the quality of writing and the quality of information.

By good, I mean writing that is lucid, precise and accurate, put together with a regard for the basics of grammar and syntax and not afraid to be stylistically interesting. What is the point of bothering when readers will run screaming if faced with the terrifying prospect of a sentence containing a subordinate clause?

The media have a vital and relevant part to play in society. And they are continuing to fulfil their duty in spite of enormous pressure from their owners to focus on profit at one end and enormous indifference from readers and viewers at the other.

It's hard to have faith in your audience when it shows an increasing appetite to be entertained to the point of brain death.

These readers and viewers apparently don't have time to read long-form, in-depth articles or watch and listen to programmes constructed of more than a collage of sound bites. In print, they prefer boxes of key points they skim before bemoaning how superficial the coverage is.

Some are turning to alternative delivery mechanisms, such as online news sites. Many carry excellent journalism, but are scattershot and frequently self-serving without the formal controls and clear mission of traditional media.


More commonly, the gift of the internet, the greatest means of transmitting information to have been invented since printing, is used not to learn about the world but to swap cat videos.

Yes, journalists sometimes make mistakes. They have this in common with doctors, who, the Victoria study showed, were the most trusted profession. Mistakes are embarrassing for both groups, although journalists' errors are seldom fatal.

Despite all this, the media still attract to their ranks people dedicated to performing their traditional roles and no amount of public disdain or apathy will stop them.

Quality journalism is still being done by experienced, dedicated and brave professionals. If their work is presented beneath an icing of trivia and real-estate porn that is the price that will have to be paid for as long as so many people demonstrate a preference for that trivia over anything more substantial.

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