Nearly All Americans Are
Troubled by the Current
State of the Media

Bospar and Propeller Insights surveyed 1,010 American adults and discovered that more than 95% are troubled by the current state of media. The reasons for their concern include the following:

  • Reports on fake news – 53%
  • Reporting gossip – 49%
  • Lying spokespeople – 48%
  • Celebrity opinions – 36%
  • Left-wing agendas – 34%
  • Gotcha journalism – 33%
  • Right-wing agendas – 32%
  • Puff pieces in exchange for access to other important interviews – 31%
  • Blind items being reported in the news – 30%
  • Hit pieces – 21%
  • Rise of independent contributors versus on-staff media – 14%

And an overwhelming majority (67%) believe ethics in journalism will be worse during the 2020 presidential campaign. When asked about the impact unethical journalism has on the country, Americans cited four chief problems:

  • 64%: It creates division and partisanship
  • 63%: It fuels inaccuracies
  • 60%: It incites hate
  • 57%: It creates fear

“If ever there was a time for an in-depth discussion about ethics in the media, it’s now,” said James Ennis Kirkland, president of the San Francisco Press Club.

The survey group considered local print and online journalists as the most ethical (40%), followed by local TV reporters and anchors (23%) and national print and online journalists (22%). Only 15% of Americans said national TV anchors and reporters were the most ethical.

“When you look at perceptions of ethics in journalism, based on political affiliation, those aligned with the Democratic Party are significantly more likely to consider national journalists/anchors/reporters ethical, when compared to those aligned with the Republican Party or other minor parties,” said Gabrielle Ayala, Principal of Propeller Insights. “This is no surprise, given the current battles being waged by all groups in politics and the media to control the narrative and position themselves as the bearers of truth.”

When it came to ranking PR and marketing people by ethics, individuals in those roles in health services came on top (23%), followed by technology (17%), professional services (16%), food and beverage (9%), consumer/retail (6%), and entertainment (6%).

Interestingly, Americans’ ethical expectations of journalism mirrored their expectations of PR and marketing. Slightly more than 43% said journalism is less ethical than in the past, while 37% said ethics hasn’t changed recently, and 20% said it’s more ethical than in the past. When asked about PR and marketing, the percentages were nearly the same: 42% said that the current state of ethics in PR and marketing is less ethical than in the past, while 39% said ethics hasn’t changed recently, and 19% said it’s more ethical than in the past.

“I think the reason Americans have similar ethical viewpoints of journalism and PR is that they are increasingly seeing them intertwined,” said Sparrer. “However, an overwhelming percentage of Americans–86%–expect PR and marketing people to be ethical. Americans expect PR and marketing professionals to be open and honest with the media and clients.”


John McCartney, president of the PRSA San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, added, “Obviously, the media plays an important role in our country. However, the media continues to be scrutinized by those in government and by almost everyone else. We look forward to a spirited discussion on the current state of ethics in media. We also thank Bospar and Werqwise for their involvement with this program.”