BP's CEO Tony Hayward.
BP's CEO Tony Hayward.

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and The Press, conducted June 3-6 among 1,002 adults, found that more Americans trust the news media coverage of the BP oil spill than the government or BP itself.

According to the survey, “Fully 67 percent say they have a lot (20 percent) or some trust (47 percent) in information on the oil leak coming from news organizations, compared with 51 percent who have at least some trust in information from the federal government and 39 percent in information from BP.”

And for good reason. It’s been 55 days since the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig burst into flames in the Gulf of Mexico and BP is still struggling to plug the leak and repair their tattered reputation.

For weeks, BP flooded the airwaves with misinformation and self-serving remarks from their U.K. Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward. Initially, the oil giant said the spill was leaking 5,000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf and the government accepted this information as fact. Then on May 27, a government-led task force hiked the number to an estimated 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day. The latest figures estimates that upwards of 40,000 barrels of oil per day are spewing from the leak, polluting the waters in this region, killing precious marine life, destroying the wetlands in Louisiana, and wreaking havoc on the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf Coast.

What I found most surprising about this poll is the fact that the American public actually trusts the mainstream media because as we all know, the public has long been distrustful of news media organizations, instead turning to nontraditional media outlets, i.e., The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, for their news, especially us millennials.

As recently as September 2009, a Pew Research Center study on the public’s distrust of the media revealed that “Just 29 percent of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63 percent say that news stories are often inaccurate.”

On the one hand, this latest poll showing the public’s revived confidence in the mainstream media is seemingly a step in the right direction for the media, yet given the disastrous handling of this crisis by BP and the government, one has to question just how much progress the news media is making in terms of restoring the public’s faith in their “fair and balanced” reporting.

Quoting National Public Radio’s reporter Frank James, “Given how poorly the energy giant and the Obama Administration are seen to have performed in the public’s eyes, I’m not sure being trusted more than them says a whole lot.”

Yes indeed.

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