Conducted by the Pew Research Centre, the survey’s results released on Tuesday revealed that political reporting in America is devoid of hard-hitting political criticism.
Some 51% of journalists from the national media and 46% from the local media believed their profession was moving in the wrong direction.
Two thirds of national reporters interviewed said the reason for poorer coverage was increased bottom-line pressure.
Around 66% said the hunt for profit was “seriously hurting” the quality of news coverage, an increase of 17% from a similar investigation in 1999.
Some 57% of local journalists shared the same opinion.
Five yearly investigation
The Pew survey is conducted every five years and covers nearly 550 national and local reporters, producers, editors and executives across the country.
“Journalism is becoming more and more a business operation,” the survey quoted the vice president of online news at a local TV station as saying.
“What new stories will make our station/newspaper the most profitable? This has always been part of the business but now it has become a major factor.”
“We don’t ask why – or why not – nearly as much as we should, particularly when covering our government”
Many of those who voiced concern over the influence of profit margins, also worried that the press was “too timid,” particularly when it came to coverage of President George Bush.
Two thirds of those in the national media also said the press had not been critical enough of Bush, compared to 35% who said coverage of the president was fair.
“We don’t ask why – or why not – nearly as much as we should, particularly when covering our government,” said a staff writer at a local newspaper.
Self-criticism extended to the issue of press accuracy, with 45% of national journalists accepting that reporting was “increasingly sloppy and error prone,” up from 40% in 1999.
The US media has been rocked in the past year by a series of scandals concerning plagiarised or fabricated stories at high-profile organisations such as The New York Times and USA Today.
“We need to mend the breach with readers,” said the senior editor at a national news magazine, “to be as clear as possible about what we know and how, and admit clearly when we’re wrong.”