Poll suggests public's improved image of news media after Sept. 11 has faded

Sunday, August 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Public opinion about the news media has fallen back to pre-Sept. 11 levels, a poll released Sunday found.

Coinciding with the decline in attitudes about the media are a rise in suspicion about corporate America and a return of partisan politics.

The poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows the evaporation of the public's good feelings about news organizations, especially how they provided information about the war on terror in the months after the attacks.

``When the news becomes more contentious, the public becomes more critical of the messenger,'' said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

In November, seven of 10 said news organizations stand up for America. That has dropped by about half now. Almost three-fourths said in November that news organizations are highly professional; again, that has dropped by about half. In November, fewer than half said news organizations are biased; six in 10 feel that way now.

The poll of 1,365 adults, taken July 8-16, has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

News organizations, particularly television networks and cable news operations, have returned to more opinionated programming and lighter feature material, said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

``The first couple of months after the attacks,'' he said, ``the media got more factual, less opinionated in its presentation and more serious in its story selection.''