President Barack Obama pointed a finger at the news media yesterday when he gave the commencement address at all-female Barnard College in New York City, attributing some of the blame for what he described as a lack of faith in American institutions on news reports that focus on “sensationalism” and “scandal” and carry “a message that change isn’t possible.”
In a survey conducted last September, Gallup discovered that 47 percent of Americans believe the media is “too liberal” while only 13 percent believe it is “too conservative.” Thirty-six percent said they believed the media was “just about right.”
“And while opportunities for women have grown exponentially over the last 30 years, as young people, in many ways you have it even tougher than we did,” Obama said.
“This recession has been more brutal, the job losses steeper,” he said. “Politics seems nastier. Congress more gridlocked than ever. Some folks in the financial world have not exactly been model corporate citizens.
“No wonder that faith in our institutions has never been lower, particularly when good news doesn’t get the same kind of ratings as bad news anymore,” Obama said. “Every day you receive a steady stream of sensationalism and scandal and stories with a message that suggest change isn’t possible; that you can’t make a difference; that you won’t be able to close that gap between life as it is and life as you want it to be.
“My job today is to tell you don’t believe it,” said Obama. “Because as tough as things have been, I am convinced you are tougher. I’ve seen your passion and I’ve seen your service. I’ve seen you engage and I’ve seen you turn out in record numbers. I’ve heard your voices amplified by creativity and a digital fluency that those of us in older generations can barely comprehend. I’ve seen a generation eager, impatient even, to step into the rushing waters of history and change its course.
“And that defiant, can-do spirit is what runs through the veins of American history,” Obama said. “It’s the lifeblood of all our progress. And it is that spirit which we need your generation to embrace and rekindle right now.”
In each of the last 12 years, Gallup has run surveys asking Americans: “In general do you think the news media are too liberal, just about right, or too conservative.” Every year, between 44 and 48 percent have said “too liberal.” The largest percentage that ever said “too conservative” was 19 percent in 2006.