Public Policy Polling finds that only 1/3rd of Americans trust the three major networks for news. Cable did better with CNN at almost 40% and Fox News having the confidence of almost half of Americans.
The trust factor:
Fox News - 49%
CNN - 39%
NBC News - 35%
CBS News - 32%
ABC News - 31%
Looks like Mark Steyn was right in saying that during the 2008 election the mainstream media were setting their own pants on fire with their biased news coverage.
And it's not just network news. It's all the traditional news sources--newspapers, news magazines even scholarly journals. They all seem to lean more to spin than accurate report.
Falling ad numbers are a financial disaster, but being trustworthy to only 1/3rd of the American public is the real disaster.
I currently use the major news outlets for easy to verify facts (e.g., the number of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan or Iraq in 2009). Not for analysis. I'm with the 2/3rds of Americans who find them untrustworthy on anything other than the most basic of facts. Watching network news is a massive waste of time. They are only useful as google sources for discrete facts easier to find than sifting through the various government, NGO, and institutional reports.
That is why even a savvy marketing change of venue to online, Blackberry, Twitter or whatever will not help them. They have to regain credibility in order to be other than a niche news opinion market (like Newsweek is aiming for).
I feel sorry for ABC, CBS, NBC and my local newspaper (which is trying to win us back by giving a free subscription). I think they haven't a clue about how they lost trust or how they can gain it back. They are so confident of their own opinions, they can't see the difference between covering the news as they see it and covering the news as something ever so much bigger than they themselves are, i.e., covering the news as a part of trying to understand Truth. Which is what is at the heart of fairness--trying to understand and accurately depict that which is different than you are.
What's truly amazing is that Fox News has the trust of almost half the American people. The dumped on source has become the trusted source. If pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18), humility comes before honor (Proverbs 15:33).