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Trust in the Media: The Watergate Scandal

Updated on October 22, 2020

The Watergate Media

Troy A. Zimmer is the author of an article titled The Impact of Watergate on the Public’s Trust in People and Confidence in the Mass Media. If you have not already guessed it by now, this article reflects on the trust/confidence that was diminished/accrued during the Richard Nixon’s involvement with the Watergate scandal. Troy uses research compiled by universities to show the correlation in trust/confidence percentages amongst educated and non-educated citizens. Zimmer argues the fact that media influenced a negative report with citizens about the government and Richard Nixon. Further he argues that “educated” people had longer lasting effects of negative media than the “non-educated.”

“For most persons the media, particularly the newspaper and television, rather than other persons were the major sources of information about Watergate” (Zimmer 744). We have to get into the frame of mind in which provoked this statement first. In 1970’s there were no cellular phones, no home computers, and more importantly no internet. Television was still a very booming industry and newspapers were still trusted. An everyday person who kept up with political news were forced to read printed opinions and watch videography of the event at, whether it was false or true. There were no other alternatives at this time. Great confidence was placed into the media for factual reporting of the news.

His main argument was that “educated” people (college educated) have longer lasting effects rather than “non-educated” (no college). Negative media would result in a negative report in which the media is reporting about. Unfortunately these “educated” people at the time seem to be portraying more trust into the media, in which Zimmer’s graphs show as well. As we progress further into our college career we can only ask the question; why would these “educated” people trust the media so much? This makes for a good question.

Zimmer around the age of 30 when he wrote this article in 1979, had previously lived the mass media frenzy known as the Watergate Scandal. He was actually in college during this time while Watergate was being assessed. With only a few venues of media, compared to what we have now, people had to be trusting of the media. “Educated” people just tended to be a little more trusting than others, and he may have been affected this way during his college years during the Watergate scandal. Nixon had the highest approval rating before Watergate, after Watergate they plummeted in the eyes of both said groups. His approval rating did gain a foot hole back with the public, but not with the “educated” public. More than likely Zimmer had some more long term negative ideas about Nixon in is own personal experience.


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