Despite the frequent negative portrayal of police by much of today’s news media, cops significantly outrank the media itself in terms of public approval.
In a recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, roughly half (51%) of Americans surveyed said they have a “great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence in law enforcement–up from 39% a year ago. Only 14% said they have “very little” or “no confidence” in cops.
Police were topped only by the military in public esteem, according to the poll, and their approval has improved “among all demographic groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, and young people,” making law enforcement “one of the most trusted institutions in the country.”
In contrast, the news media emerged from the survey as a “particularly reviled group.” Only a “dismal” 14% of those polled gave the media high marks, compared to 48% who said they have “little” or “no faith” in national news reporting.
That skepticism had cause for reinforcement recently when a fresh case of faulty journalism and law enforcement surfaced, involving the New York Times.
Under a byline shared by reporter Matt Apuzzo, the newspaper without attribution claimed that one of the terrorists behind the lethal attack in San Bernardino had “talked openly” about jihad on social media, and blamed the failure of law enforcement to discover her dangerous remarks for allowing her to enter the US to carry out the attack.
FBI Director James Comey said that in fact neither of the husband-and-wife terror team had ever posted their views publicly on social media. He dismissed the Times’ report as inaccurate “garble.”
The newspaper’s executive editor acknowledged that the report was “a really big mistake.” It was the second such stumble lately by Apuzzo, who earlier coauthored a story that was found to contain false information about a presidential candidate and criminal accusations.
“Journalism is about free speech,” notes Force Science instructor Chris Lawrence. “However, speech in that context should not be unattached to the truth. Publishing inaccuracies permits those with an axe to grind to use the press to sharpen their blades.”