This paper was accepted for presentation at the Newspaper Division of the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, March 12-14,1998, New Orleans.

"Can News Councils Help Newspapers Regain Public Trust?"

By Genelle Belmas, Jennifer Lambe, and William Babcock.

The American public is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the media. Many such people - those either annoyed with or hostile toward newspapers - have for the past few decades railed against the media, urging the creation of news councils as a means of controlling or "getting back" at the press. While the public's wrath is not directed against newspapers alone, it is clear that, amid steadily declining readership, newspapers must have a stake in trying not only to manage their credibility, but also to be more accessible and responsive to public needs and desires.

News councils are one possible mechanism for increasing understanding between the press and public. The Minnesota News Council is the nation's longest-running statewide non-legal media dispute resolution body. This paper examines the determinations of the Council in which newspapers are respondents. Given the media's increasing lack of credibility with the public, our findings indicate that newspapers would be well-served to examine their long-standing distrust of news councils and instead see such councils as a means of helping the news industry regain the public's trust.



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