Terry Heaton wrote a cool post about this slide:
Terry of course asked the big question of Why? Why is trust in the media falling? He thinks that Jay Rosen's concern about the "Voice from Nowhere" is part of this and adds a strong additional argument that a media source that only has one point of view - its own - feels more and more like a shill. Who trusts a shill?
I would like to add a bit more to both Jay and Terry's arguments. I think that if we go deeper into how culture shapes us and how Tribal culture is we can see more clearly how to react to this situation.
I have been looking at the issue of Cultural Cognition - or the filters that we use to make meaning of the world. Dan Kahan's thesis is that most Americans fit into a set of cultural tribes that determine how they process information. Walter Russell Mead also thinks a great deal about this form of filtering by culture and has defined a set of easy to understand labels to capture the biases of the larger groupings.
Let's jump to the real world of the media to illustrate what this cultural filter means in practice.
In spite of the overall decline in the trust in the media - there are some paradoxes
- NPR is surging - with huge increases in listeners - they say it is because of the demand for sound news - NPR is highly trusted but.....
- Fox is surging too and it too is highly trusted
- CNN is sinking and is not trusted
Why is NPR and Fox rising in numbers and trust while most of the media is falling?
I think that the answer is that both play to the cultural bias of two very important cultural tribes in America
- Fox to the Jacksonians
- NPR to the Jeffersonians
- Rachel Maddow plays to the more liberal wing of the Jeffersonians. Rush Limbaugh to the more extreme wing of the Jacksonians.
If you play to no tribe such as I think is the case for CNN - you get no traction. If you are the voice from nowhere - you will not have people attach strongly to you.
Dan Kahan's research shows how the cultural fit works.
First of all - The Tribes exist - they can only see what is going on through their filters. They are waiting to attach or to attack what fits or does not fit. If you think that people are not tribal and are not culturally filtered then you miss it all.
Second - no matter what the content! They can sense if the messenger is one of them. No matter what he or she says - the cultural fit of the messenger is the starting point of acceptance or rejection. So at the extreme ends - Rachel is the ideal messenger as is Limbaugh. If you offer no cultural fit for the messenger, then you have missed it all. No one is neutral. Neutral has no power.
Thirdly - how the issue is Framed increases the attachment or the rejection. The lead, the POV, the context all mean that the content - that can be the same in the 2 camps is perceived and reacted to entirely differently. So how you frame is another pivotal issue. You must frame with a tribe in mind.
But suppose you want to bring the tribes closer together? What could you do if you choose not to either Fox or NPR?
- You can tune into several tribes - Terry is going there and I know that Jay is too - Have a big pond with fish that all like swimming in it. Dan Kahan's research has shown that you can get the tribes closer by mixing the messengers up - have messengers that are tuned into a tribe tell the other story
- Create a rich and spice soup with lots of different chunks - in the good old days PBS had William F Buckley as well as Bill Moyers - mix it up but have strong cultural positions and messengers.
- The closing of gap comes from the mix
The choice is porridge or curry.