Just 12% of New Jerseyans think local media is doing a good job, with 41% of the state saying that local media is doing a poor job informing the public, covering key issues and holding public officials accountable, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll.
A little more than one-third of the state (35%) rate the job of local media as just fair.
“Local news coverage in New Jersey has really been hollowed out over the past decade,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the executive director of the poll. “The reporters and outlets we have do good work, but there’s just not that many of them left.”
The bad reviews for local media come at a particularly tough time for print newspapers in New Jersey. Gannett, which has lost over $100 million in the last six months, has announced 400 layoffs nationally, reduced benefits packages, mandated furloughs next month, and has left a huge number of reporter positions unfilled. The Star-Ledger has also struggled to find its place, operating a newsroom that is a fraction of the paper’s glory days.
In New Jersey, Democrats give better reviews to local journalists than Republicans and independents.
Among Democrats, 19% say local media is doing a good job, while 46% rate them as fair and 20% view their performance as poor. Neary three-quarters of Republicans (73%) say local media is doing a poor job, with 19% calling rating them as doing a fair job, and just 5% saying the press is doing a good job.
But among independents, the group that frequently determines the outcome of elections in the state, reviews of local media fall below the statewide average: 10% say they’re doing a good job, 33% grade them as doing a fair job, and almost half the state (47%) grade their performance as poor.
“Going back to Richard Nixon, Republican leaders nationally have been treating the press like an enemy,” Cassino stated. “After fifty years of that, it’s not surprising that individual Republicans have internalized the message.”
The pollster said that former President Donald Trump’s condemnation of the media has been especially boisterous, but that survey didn’t come up with enough anti-Trump Republicans in their sample to differentiate between the effects of Trump and traditional partisanship.
There is a silver lining for local media, the poll shows: a majority of New Jerseyans under age 30 (58%) say the state’s local media is doing at least a fair job, compared to 6% rating them as good and 20% saying their work has been poor.
Among residents overage 30 – those who remember when newspapers had some clout – nearly half of the state (46%) say local media does a poor job; 14% think they’re doing a good job and 29% rate their performance as fair.
There’s not much of a difference in how the public views the performance of local media based on education: New Jerseyans with college degrees say local media is 13% good, 30% fair and 44% poor; among those with no degree, it’s 12% god, 40% fair and 38% poor.
The wording of the question was: “The local media has an important role in informing the public, covering important issues, and holding officials accountable. On the whole, do you think the local media in New Jersey is doing a good job in these roles, a fair job, or a poor job?”
The FDU poll surveyed 801 New Jersey residents between October 24 and November 1 with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.