Americans' confidence in media has fallen to record lows. There are critiques aplenty of the media, but what does the conversation about declining trust often miss? And was there really ever a "golden era" of journalism? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Wesley Lowery joins the podcast to discuss.
Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio is posted above.
Mohamed Younis 00:07
I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is The Gallup Podcast. In this episode, we tackle the subject that's impacted us all: the declining and now record-low trust in news media. Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize- winning author and journalist, and he joins us today. Wesley, it's a pleasure to have you on the podcast.
Wesley Lowery 00:25
Of course. I'm excited to be here. It's gonna be a good conversation.
Mohamed Younis 00:27
Just to kind of set context, I like to use this statistic for people on this topic. We've been tracking trust in media for a long time. When Nixon was being impeached, seven in 10 Americans said they basically had high confidence in the veracity of the news they had access to. When Trump was being impeached, that dropped down to four in 10, and it's only gone lower. I want to ask you, Wesley, from your perspective, what does the current conversation around declining trust in media often miss?
Wesley Lowery 00:59
Sure. And so I'm just looking up right now to make sure I have the years right. So Nixon is impeached in '73-'74. Right? And now, and so now we fast-forward -- look I'm a journalist, not a mathematician, but we fast-forward about 50 years, right? Someone can, someone can fact-check me on that, right? But we fast forward about 50 years. And I think that very often, I think on every issue, too often we have conversations in purely political senses, without considering things outside and beyond politics. And that's not me in any way challenging the Nixon conversation. I think that's a smart data point, right? But I think it's just noting that there are, that the things that have happened between '73 and '74 in our culture and society are much larger than our partisan politics, right? We invented things like the internet and cellphones, cable television, right? All types of things have changed in massive ways. And so when we talk about the media, the media that was being received or the news media being received in '73 to '74 is fundamentally different -- even if it's similar in some ways -- to the media someone might be receiving today. Right?
Wesley Lowery 02:08
And so on the one hand, I love that you all and other folks ask these same questions over time this way, because it does allow us that understanding. But I do think for some of us who are laymen, we can just look at these things and pretend that all things are equal, when what we know is that, even with the exact same words, the question being asked is fundamentally different 50 years later, because the world is different and the people being asked of it are different. And so when I think about the things that have changed and shifted in the media since '73 or '74, right, you're talking about corporate consolidation of, of major mainstream news organizations, which certainly changes what's acceptable on some airwaves and what is not acceptable on other airwaves, especially around economic and capitalistic issues, around those fights, right? You see the advent of talk radio and what that looks like across the country and its role and impact in our politics. You see the rise of cable television, cable news. The idea that the news would be on all the time is something that is completely different and is only an idea that's about, what, 30 years old in our society -- that at all times the news is on. That's not how it worked before. Right? You turned into Cronkite at a certain hour, right? Whether that be on the radio or on television, it wasn't at all moments, the news.
Wesley Lowery 03:35
You have the development, first, of online message boards but then broad social media and online communities, where people are sharing and spreading information -- the email newsletter and chain forward; the idea of the Drudge Report and these macroaggregators, whether it be Drudge and then later the Huffington Post and then later Breitbart, right? These types of organizations that are spreading everything to you. You have the rise in what I would consider big political media, and so that's Politico and Axios and places that are devoted all day, every day to covering politics as sport at the same time that you have the demise of many of the more ideological journals, right -- the worlds where you would read a really smart piece in GQ every month and Esquire and Men's Health and Rolling Stone and The New Republic. And the, like, we know magazines have been, have lost a lot of standing as well. And when they cover politics very often, especially back then, it was a more considered and argue, you know, argumentative type coverage, less ticky-tack, right.
Wesley Lowery 04:45
Then we get to -- and we have even mentioned, right -- the complete upending of what was at the time, in '73-'74, the primary source of news information, which would have been the local newspaper, an industry that almost does not exist today in, in a real sense, and the, and the clearing out of local news, which then contributes to the nationalization of local news. Everything is about national figures; nothing is about what's happening in your backyard. And beyond that, even if your local newspaper leaned a little bit Republican, if Barack Obama or Joe Biden showed up, the news reporters would cover it straight, right. And so you would have people receiving their factual information about a politician, even who they disagreed with, in a way that was at least fair. Today, to find out what Joe Biden said, someone who's conservative is going to a Daily Caller or a Breitbart or a Fox News, which is fundamentally going to be unfair in its framing, in the context -- and, and, and sometimes vice versa as well: people on the left who are finding out about Republicans from the Huffington Post, right.
Wesley Lowery 05:52
And so what we see -- and then, and then you have Facebook, and then you have Twitter and then you have TikTok and all these other spaces where people are the full democratization of media, where we all own a printing press that's in our pocket at all times. And so what I would suggest is that every single premise and fundamental of the question today is insanely different than the question in '73-'74. What I will say is, I think for practitioners of journalism, we often have a very narrow conversation, right, that ignores a lot of that context, right? It must be because the journalists are tweeting too much. Like we try to solve the problem as if we personally are the people who broke it, and I'm certainly not someone who would suggest we do not have responsibility and accountability and there, and there are not a lot of things we could be doing differently. But what is also true is that everything is different, everything has changed. And our information ecosystem in the United States of America has been fundamentally broken and reset since the '60s and '70s and '80s in a way that I'm not sure that we all have collectively fully grappled with and, therefore, figured out. If one of the things we want is trust, what are the values that are needed and necessary for trust?
Mohamed Younis 07:17
That's a really interesting -- I'm really surprised, first of all to, to hear you say some of what you said, which is exactly why I wanted to talk to you about this. One of the things that is really fascinating to me is that conversation among, you know, journalists who are focused on this topic. And you and I, we cross paths in that kind of a context. While these forces are definitely powerful and paradigm shifting, like every single, I love how you took us through every single one of those is a complete paradigm shift on who is the consumer? Why is this content being created? What's the purpose of it? And how is it assessed as good or bad content. Even on like the TV news front, do we want, it's, you know, it's lower than the others, I was, you know, taking that. But let's just go back to your premise: Is the objective to get back to the 70% in whatever paradigm shift, like, you know what I'm saying? Is the objective really to build trust back into news organizations, or is that really an outdated concept thing of the past, and now it's really more about where do you get information that you trust when you need it and how you need it? Let me ask it another way. A lot of people talk, you mentioned Cronkite; a lot of people talk about Edward Murrow, you know, this like golden era of journalism. Was there really ever a golden era? I mean, was that objective?
Wesley Lowery 08:43
No, and what's interesting is -- and I want to answer both of those questions, because I think they're both really smart. First and foremost, there was never a golden era of journalism. It didn't exist. In fact, we've seen every iteration of American journalism has come in response to the perceived failings of the prior iteration, right? And so each version of journalism, each -- Dean Baquet the outgoing, or now former, editor of The New York Times, likes to say that there is a, that every generation gets to build its own journalism. And I think that is, and it's maybe not every generation literally, but I think every few year, every few decades we see this, right? And it, and it is almost always in response to the clear, obvious, documented failings of the prior generation. Beyond that, though, I would also suggest that a lot of the nostalgia, even about the '60s and '70s, is nonsensical, right? To, to hold out a Murrow or a Cronkite as if they were "objective, just the facts" folks is not true. Murrow's ranting gets us out of Vietnam by basically saying this is a quagmire; we need to get out of this -- on CBS News, right? And we, and, and that is the person we're holding up as the "just the facts, he would never give his opinion" type person? Right? It's just like completely factually inaccurate, the way we remember these folks who were dripping in personality, who were dripping it, that they were cosplaying a role. Right?
Wesley Lowery 10:13
We talk now, it's this conversation sometimes where practitioners push back about the idea of us as brands and us -- we give out awards named after a bunch of White guys because they donated billions of dollars for their legacy. Pulitzer, like an objectively terrible person; Hearst, not that great of a person. Like, like we have all these folks whose entire legacies are massive branding operations, and we all operate in the industries they built. And then we're like, but I but I don't want to be seen as a personal brand. And it's like, I wanna be like Cronkite or Murrow; I want to be like Woodward and Bernstein. All those things are brands. I just listed you 17 journalism brand names, right? That's what it is. We know what it means to be Hunter S. Thompson versus Sy Hersh versus, you know, like, we understand. These are, brand is just reputation. It's what you're known for or what you're known by.
Wesley Lowery 11:05
So setting that aside though for a second, right? Because no, I don't think there was any golden age. I do think that, for many of the powerful people in the institution of media today, there is a real desire, their objective is to get back to the levels of trust of the '60s and '70s is what they would say they want to do. They would say first and foremost, their priority is to have the populace, you know, generic-ballot question, trust the media. And I think that that is a well-intentioned but potentially misguided objective. And here's what I'll say. I think, and not to put my colleagues on the couch, but I know them, and I've talked to a lot of them many times. I know a lot of the powerful people in our industry. The desire for that, I think, is from a true, genuine desire from working journalists and the powerful people in journalism to fix the very obvious broken things about our country and our democracy. They want that.
Wesley Lowery 12:10
Journalists are mission-oriented people, right? As much as they go, we're not, they do the job they do because they care about the country they live in; they care about the society and the world. They want to, they want to tell good stories of interesting people. They want to help make things be better. They want to hold bad actors to account. And I think for so many journalists, what they imagine, they look around and they misdiagnose the problem. They say, well everyone is crazy. We're doing these insane things; we're being sexist and racist and mean to immigrants and Muslims and, like, a talk show host is the president or was the -- and the journalists think, well because people aren't reading our articles, and it must be because they don't trust us, right? There's a fundamental -- in some ways, I actually think, perhaps, overestimation of the American public, that we look around at America and we go, "Well, if people really knew what was going on, they wouldn't choose this; they wouldn't want this. They just don't understand. We just need to fact-check it more. We just need to -- " right?
Wesley Lowery 13:17
Like I might, and that, and that might be true for a sliver of our population. I might suggest that, look, we live in a hyperindividualistic, capitalistic society, people -- the populace writ large -- and not everyone, not everyone has the same access and the same resources, but people choose the things they want. They weren't tricked into voting for Donald Trump. They pass the abortion laws they want to pass. They pass the, right, the, there's a reason -- if we all wanted to watch good news, we would all turn into PBS tonight. None of us will. We'll turn on CNN or Fox or MSNBC. We, I had a friend years ago who worked high up at Twitter in the early ages, and he would do a lot of the, he would do a lot of the work with newsrooms. And he would always say, he would go, what's interesting about social, you have to understand the audience behavior. Because it's social, people are trying to send a signal about who they are through what they share and what they repost, but that does not correlate to what they'll click on necessarily. Right. And so what he would always say is, if you guys, if your newsroom writes about sex or about porn every and tweets it, everyone will click the link; no one will retweet it. Right.
Wesley Lowery 14:36
And so when you think about what, and so again, we have to be honest about the limitations of understanding what people want, based solely or even primarily on what they say they want. And I might suggest with the humility of there's no way to read the minds of a massive population of 300 million, I might suggest the best proxy for knowing what people want is what they spend their money on; what they choose, right? What they -- in their actions. And so what I would say, to loop that back to your actual question, right, I think it's a mistake for -- and a lot of really good-faith, smart people disagree with me on this -- but I think it's a mistake for us to prioritize winning back the theoretical trust of all of these folks because, one, I think it may actually be impossible; two, I think that it forces us to make sacrifices.
Wesley Lowery 15:37
I taught a class in Colorado called, " The History and Future of American Journalism." And we talked, and one of the frameworks through which I had my students think about every media organization we encountered or every era of journalism was what happens if you are a news organization or a publication, right, what happens when your interests contradict or run afoul of your values, right? That if it is in my interest for the most people to buy my newspaper, but it is my value to be fair and comprehensive, and -- what happens? What do I do with those things, right? And what we see time and time again throughout the American populace is that news organizations are rewarded when they sacrifice their values for their interests, right? The yellow journalism of the Pulitzers and Hearsts, right? The, in many ways, just straight police propaganda reported by all types of newspapers for years. Because if they could get a grisly detail from a police officer, they could sell more newspapers than their rival across town the next morning. But what that meant is that had to sacrifice their ability to really be skeptical of what the police were saying, because they needed the police to return their phone calls right? And give them that detail right?
Wesley Lowery 16:58
We see again, I don't think anyone would suggest -- including my dear friends who work in cable news -- that if you turn on an hour of, I'll take CNN, which I think is the best of the cable news networks, I don't think anyone would suggest that what happens in a given hour of CNN is actually the optimal way to inform the most people, right? That they have to deal with their interest. Their interest is keeping you watching. And if what they have to do is drop Wolf Blitzer out of a helicopter and say, "Breaking news alert!" like, they will do that. If they have to literally beam in will.i.am as a hologram, which they did, right. Like if they have to -- countdown clock: 97 days until the next debate! Do not turn away! Like all of that is not about their value, other than the extent to which one of their values is, people should watch more CNN.
Mohamed Younis 17:51
And they should be on the air, and we need to be on the air all the time.
Wesley Lowery 17:53
Yes. Right. And so that, and so what I say is, and so but what I would say is -- and I keep going down rabbit holes that aren't actually what you asked me. But what I, what I would say, though, is, I would suggest, in the ideal version of American journalism -- in the journalism we'd like to build, the world we'd like to live in; not the one we live in today -- we need to be able to operate from our values and remove the extent to which we have to constantly be considering our interests. That if we don't have enough facts on this story, we need to be able to say, Well, you know what? We're not reporting it today. And we're gonna make seven more phone calls, and then two days from now, we're gonna give you the best and the most details. And what people would say in the short term is, "No, but someone else will just do it." And so we have to -- I understand that.
Wesley Lowery 18:44
But what I would also note is, in this moment where more people receive more information from more varying sources than ever before, there is a premium for high-quality information that's been vetted and that's real. There's a reason the Washington Post and New York Times subscription skyrocketed in recent years. There's a reason that when I see a New Yorker link, I'm much more inclined to click on it than when I see some aggregation of an aggregation of an aggregation, even on the same topic. Why? Because I know what to expect from The New Yorker. I know they're gonna have called everyone; it's gonna be interesting. It's gonna be high minded. It's gonna be well written. It's going to be edited. Right? I think, I talk very often about, in this time where we have so much journalism, so much news being thrown at everyone, right? We have to grapple with the difference between the best and the bulk. And
Mohamed Younis 19:36
In the best and the bulk.
Wesley Lowery 19:38
Yeah, in the best and the bulk. The bulk is garbage. If, but if we could get more of the bulk to be more like the best of our work -- and that is true both across the industry. Right? If we could get more journalism, more of the links showing up in my mother's Facebook feed and your brother's Facebook feed, more of those links to look like The New York Times and The New Yorker, we would be better off. And secondarily, if we could get more of The New York Times' work to look more like the best of The New York Times' work, we would also be better off, right. But there's this massive gulf between -- and so therefore, I think a lot of journalists get very defensive when we talk about this, because we are envisioning the best of our work, the ideals. No, we don't ever sleep with sources. No, we would never report anything --
Mohamed Younis 20:21
Actually, you know what? It reminds me, it reminds me of "Islam means peace" after 9/11. It totally reminds me of that. It's a very interesting parallel, because it's like, as a journalist, you're saying, no, like what I and my colleagues represent is absolutely the best of our values. And what's being projected about us is constantly the bottom, like the absolute worst of what our group can offer.
Wesley Lowery 20:46
And both sides use this. And in "both sides," I mean, the people who are ardently defending the integrity of journalism and the people who are organizing to try to destroy journalism, right? And so much of those, those two sides -- both are using the hyperbolic examples to have this fight about the institution. And I actually don't think the hyperbolic examples are useful in either direction. Right? Again, if I'm someone who has complaints about the media coverage of my community, of my town, of whatever, of my church, of whatever it is, you going, "Well, Woodward and Bernstein" is not actually a helpful retort to me, right? You're lying to me. You're telling me, "No, we're always fair. We always call everyone." And I'm reading a piece about something I know about going, well, but you got stuff wrong, right?
Wesley Lowery 21:34
Glenn Greenwald said this once. He said something along the lines of one of the, the -- and, and Glenn and I, Glenn and I have worked together on a press, with the Freedom of Press Foundation. You know, we're folks who probably don't share a lot of the same politics, although he's much more public with his politics than I am. I try to, you know, I don't opine as much; I do. But, and so it's a little controversial in some spaces now to quote Glenn. But what I would note is that -- I think about this sometimes -- he said something, he might have tweeted this, but he goes, "One of the ways to fully understand how much the media gets wrong is to have yourself or something you know intimately be covered by the media." And I will say, and I will say that, right? I, you know, for, for example, in recent years, my former workplace, The Washington Post, has been written about a lot. I've been a character in some of those pieces. I've read a lot of writing about a place that I know very intimately, still know very intimately. And in most of those pieces, I could take a red pen out and be like, well that's not actually true, or I know who that source is, and that's not, that's not the agenda there. And that's the, that we understand, when we read something we really know about, how even in the best version of it, it's like maybe 75% right. Maybe -- in the best version.
Mohamed Younis 22:45
Let me pivot to investigative journalism, right? Like you're, you made a point that if more journalism really, like, followed the standards of good investigative journalism, there would be a lot more maybe trust or whatever; people would be doing their jobs more effectively in this industry. But at the same time, isn't, aren't people already voting with their feet? Like if, like we're living in an era right now where there is record-low confidence in national institutions. If there ever was supposed to be a heyday for investigative journalism and holding people accountable, wouldn't it be right now?
Wesley Lowery 23:26
Maybe except -- except -- that in this moment we have a media institution that is crippled. I mean, it's completely, it's been undone by economic forces, by poor decision-making within the industry, by the disruptive nature of the internet and our inability of our institutions to pivot or to reinvent themselves and create themselves, the slowness with which we did this, right. The, the, the United States media -- and I want to be clear, I think there are a ton of places and a ton of people doing a really great, really important work, and there are a lot of really, really innovative, smart things that are happening. But at scale, the average American has access to less great journalism possibly than ever before, because back in the day, they at least had a local newspaper that would ask some people some questions sometimes, right?
Wesley Lowery 24:22
Most -- any number, maybe not most -- any number of Americans are living in places where no one is holding their city council or the mayor accountable, much less the water board or the school board or the zoning commission or the, you know. Like, and so, because of that, I do think that that is harmful. And then beyond that, even the behemoths, CNNs the Posts, the Times, these other places -- all of which do great journalism and have great journalists -- values and interests. We spend so much time covering politics because it's what people want to talk about. Not policy, not outcomes, not accountability, not Did Joe Biden's bill actually go give all those people that money?
Mohamed Younis 25:07
No, it's who said what, and what were they wearing, and what was the vibe?
Wesley Lowery 25:11
All conflict and drama. Why? Because that keeps you watching. It's, again, if we really cared about doing the best version of journalism, all the cable news networks would be PBS. Thoughtful, considered, talking to all the people, providing context. It would be, we would have PBS and "60 Minutes" only on cable would be what we would have. That is not what we have. And that is not just a choice of the consumers; it's a choice of the providers to say, no, we need to run our profits up. And so I think that, you know, I do think that, when you look at the average piece of journalism -- again, the politics part, because I think these things are related. They're linked, but they're also separate. Right?
Wesley Lowery 25:53
You have, almost all of our journalism becomes politics. Maybe not all of it; there are a ton of people doing nonpolitics. But the stuff that we're throwing all the attention at is politics, politics, politics, which is the most divisive, the most -- in some ways extremely complicated, because everyone involved is an unreliable source. And the, and we, and we've decided to make that our bread and butter -- the thing we do the most of -- and also to do it with speed and without the standards of investigative journalism. Most, if you were to go into the Times, into the Post, much less the Politicos of the world, much less the Axioses of the world, much less the cable news networks of the world, and applied the whole, "you need three unrelated sources to report something," they wouldn't be able to publish anything,
Mohamed Younis 26:45
Nothing, yeah, nothing would make it.
Wesley Lowery 26:47
None of it. None of it. One guy says Trump said this thing in a meeting yesterday. One person says that the mood inside of the caucus is X, Y and Z. One -- it would literally never, we wouldn't. And so, again, what I would suggest is the average piece of political reporting, even at the best places in the country, could not, would not get published by the investigative editor of that same publication. He would go, he or she would go, all right, but who said this? This isn't on the record. How do we know this? Did we really check it? What's their agenda here? Those, those conversations, not that they don't ever happen on the politics desk, because they do. And again, some of my best friends are political reporters; hopefully, they don't listen to this. But they'd be, but the reality is 00 I said all this to them. But the reality is, the average piece of political journalism is not the best of our, is not the best of our profession. And the average thing someone's interacting with The New York Times or the Post or CNN or Politico on is a piece of political journalism.
Mohamed Younis 27:48
OK, my last question for you is, when Wesley wakes up in the morning, hears something happened -- or in the afternoon --
Wesley Lowery 27:57
Yeah, "wakes up in the morning" is a, is not the most accurate framing of how my sleep schedule works.
Mohamed Younis 28:03
What do you, what, when you know something's going down, and you need more information, where do you go? Where do you go?
Wesley Lowery 28:11
And it's obviously not something you know a lot about or, you know. So what's interesting is I, I've been thinking a lot about two -- I've been thinking about something for a long time, and it's played out in the public now twice in ways I'm really glad people are talking about it. And so I'll be the third person to talk publicly about it. The first was, there is a great piece in The Washington Post; I believe it was by the journalist Amanda Riley. But she, she wrote about basically how she had basically given up most of her media consumption, and she felt guilty about it, right? That here we are and we're, here we are, people who work in the media, and we find this completely overwhelming -- the amount of information, having to read all this. And now I have to become an expert Ukraine, and now I'm gonna become an expert in inflation, and now I got to know the entire history of abortion politics. And the like, it's, humans were not designed to consume this much information. Right?
Wesley Lowery 29:18
Ezra Klein said something very similar in his podcast that he does at The New York Times -- the same conversation of this idea that, like, we're just inundated with this fire hose and that like, literally, like physically, human brains were not designed to comprehend this many things. In fact, if you go back to the Walter Lippmanns of the world and some other folks -- and he was a little bit more maybe anti-democracy than people would be comfortable being today. But Lippman basically argues, look, the world's way too complicated for the average American to understand anything about. And so what we need to do is write down some facts so that the gilded and the elites can understand it, and they can make decisions on everyone. Like basically, like everything has to be simplified, because there are too many decisions that have to be made in a given day for the average American to make that many decisions. That it is impossible for you, someone who needs to work a job and support a family and keep a home, to also understand inflation, exactly when life begins and how we should legislate it, immigration policy, education policy, geopolitical forces like Russia and China and whether Nancy Pelosi should be in Taiwan right now, right, like --
Mohamed Younis 30:28
In 30 minutes, in 30 minutes.
Wesley Lowery 30:29
And so Lippman would argue, like, no, no, no -- like the whole point of his, the creation of the type of journalism he wanted, was that like the people are rubes. But if we can get a few people to understand enough of the stuff, we can self-govern right. But I'm not going that far. But what I would say is I would add myself to that list of people who are practitioners of media, who are media hyperconsumers, where my Facebook feed and Twitter feeds are all media, because my friends are all media, posting their own articles, right? Like, or it's their mom posting their articles. I opt out of so much news coverage. I cannot, I have some specific friends who host cable news shows who I might tune into or, at the very least record, so that they get credit for me having watched it, whether I actually watch every week or not. I have some specific friends who do great coverage on specific issues that I seek out, but, you know, we're talking at 10:30 a.m.; I have not consumed a piece of news content this morning at all.
Wesley Lowery 31:30
Now part of that is also, as someone whose job it is to do the journalism, right, when I'm engaged in journalism, I tend to be hyperfocused. So I'm in the middle of working on a piece right now. And so when I woke up at 7 this morning, I had, I had three hours or four hours of work to do before we talked right. It was, I didn't have time to be fiddling around, figuring out what I thought about insert political story of the day; I had calls to make about the thing I was working on. But I do think that we are, so much of our media is still based on the idea of the regulated schedule, initially, of the news, right, where practically it is, right, where we put a newspaper out every day. We go on air at 6 p.m. Even as we now provide news constantly at all times, right, which, one, makes it less necessary for someone to buy our 6, our paper every day or to tune in at 6 p.m., undermines our actual business model as built, but secondarily, without necessarily considering the fire hose of information that people are being inundated with.
Wesley Lowery 32:38
And so, again, on any number of issues, on something I don't know as well -- on climate, on immigration, -- which I know a little bit but not nearly as well as my friends who cover it, right -- or even on the White House, during a year where I'm not covering politics, right? I'm much more likely to read the books by the journalists, to read the big New Yorker piece or the big takeout. I'm much more likely to read Eli Saslow doing his "As told to" in The Washington Post about COVID than I am to read this blow-by-blow every single day. It's too much! I can't do -- there aren't enough hours in the day to read all this information and sort through all of it. And I think that if those of us whose actual, literal livelihoods revolve around there being a robust media ecosystem cannot handle this, right, what does that say for the average human living back home in my hometown of Cleveland, who's just trying to figure out if they can afford to fill their tank of gas today, if climate change is gonna kill us, if their daughter is assaulted if she can get an abortion, right? Like they're just trying to live their lives, right? And when can I take this mask off? And when can I go see my grandparents? And what can I, and also is a new variant gonna kill all of us? And like what's going on with China and Russia? That seems scary.
Mohamed Younis 33:56
When are gas prices going down?
Wesley Lowery 33:58
Yeah, and like, and we're like, well here. We'll explain it to you, in 9 million iterative parts. And like, and so again, if what we want to do is inform the citizenry. If we want, if we believe that the pathway to the best version of our democracy, to the best version of our society -- because maybe it's not a democracy; whatever it is, right -- is to have an informed citizenry, I think we have to have some really hard conversations about what our collective report card is on informing the citizenry, because I think we're doing a really, really poor job.
Mohamed Younis 34:36
On that note, Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist. Wesley, thank you for being with us.
Wesley Lowery 34:44
I appreciate you. Thank you so much. Anytime.
Mohamed Younis 34:53
That's our show. Thank you for tuning in. To subscribe and stay up to date with our latest conversations, just search for "The Gallup Podcast" wherever you podcast. And for more key findings from Gallup News, go to news.gallup.com or follow us on Twitter @gallupnews. If you have suggestions for the show, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Gallup Podcast is directed by Curtis Grubb and produced by Justin McCarthy. I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is Gallup: reporting on the will of the people since the 1930s.