Trust in the Media Hits an All-Time Low

It appears the American public is finally waking up to a sad fact of life: mainstream news outlets and media cannot be trusted.

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer is a report focused on trends related to public trust in our major institutions: media, government and business. The report is based upon a survey of over 36,000 respondents.

Photo by WellPhoto/

A few highlights:

  • “Government leaders and journalists are seen as the least trusted societal leaders today, with less than half of respondents trusting either government leaders at 42% and journalists at 46%.”
  • “Nearly one out of every two respondents view government and media as divisive forces in society, 48% and 46%, respectively.”
  • “Concerns over fake news or false information being used as a weapon is now at an all-time high of 76%.”
  • None of the major information sources are trusted as a source of general news and information, with trust in search engines at 59%, followed by traditional media at 57%, owned media at 43% and social media at only 37%.”
  • “Distrust is now society’s default emotion. Nearly 6 in 10 say their default tendency is to distrust something until they see evidence it is trustworthy. Another 64% say it’s now to a point where people are incapable of having constructive and civil debates about issues they disagree on.”

I didn’t find these numbers particularly surprising. My response was “What took you so long?” As a Scientologist who has watched certain media sources libel my religion for over 50 years, I’m delighted they’re finally getting the reputation they have earned.

How did institutions with such massive megaphones lose so much control over what the general public thinks and believes? Maybe it’s a byproduct of the rise of social media. These days, it’s not as easy for news sources to get away with biased reporting or flat-out lying—there are other channels. Even news outlets once considered the gold standard for truth in reporting are being busted on a regular basis. Often times, it’s “citizen journalists” doing the busting, with cell phone recordings or even live streaming video from the scene of the event. I’m reminded of a line from the Marx Brothers’ film, Duck Soup: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

My first personal experience with dishonest media came when I was moving from one apartment to a new residence in the late 1960s, in my early days as a Scientologist. The day after my move, an article appeared in the local paper with a headline which I’ll paraphrase, because it’s been so long: “Scientologists Setting Up Illegal Operations in Residential Neighborhood!”

The article told the horrifying story of how a Scientologist, with a pick-up load full of furniture, was seen moving into a home in a residential area. There was even a picture of my truck! I have no idea how the story came to be. 

Perhaps my response should have been anger, but all I could do was laugh.

When we discover numerous news outlets running lies and hateful propaganda against an individual or group, it’s easy to assume a conspiracy. But then there’s Hanlon’s razor which states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

My guess is, if you were to look closely behind the decades of hateful reporting on Scientology, you would find both!

Jim Kalergis
Jim is a Los Angeles based screenwriter specializing in edit/rewrite work. In previous careers, Jim was a disk jockey, developed educational materials for industry, and managed a number of broadcast TV studio operations. His free time activities include ham radio and contributing to web-based discussion groups on a wide range of subjects.