Recently inducted into the Montana Broadcaster’s Association Hall of Fame, Dr. Bill Whitsitt, working with the Greater Montana Foundation, recently released a new survey with some startling trends about how Montanans view and listen to news and information, both locally and nationally.

Whitsitt said firstly, that Montanans deeply care about their news.

“They increasingly engage and want to know about issues of importance, but because we have such a proliferation of media sources now available on the internet, as well as our traditional media, they are becoming more selective about what they read, and what they watch,” said Dr. Whitsitt. “We’re also seeing some interesting new trends on credibility of the national news media in particular.”

Whitsitt said Montanans do trust their local news media for truthful and accurate reporting.

“Montanans trust their local media, their statewide media more so than the national media, and that is totally understandable,” he said. “As local media, how do we maintain that trust and credibility in the face of declining national news credibility and more partisanship among selection of media, both in Montana and nationwide.”

Whitsitt said the survey points out the glaring fact that Republicans and conservatives utilize completely different media sources than do Democrats and liberals. Fox News came out on top overall, followed by NPR, CBS and CNN.

“It’s almost all Democrats on NPR, CBS and CNN and almost all Republicans on Fox News,” he said. “What is surprising to me is that we’re seeing it increase even here in Montana while it also increases nationwide. That concerns me, because if we’re not opening our minds to various sources of news and information, we may be missing some very good points from people that we think don’t agree with us make, because we’re not listening to them, and that’s not so good for our society and for voters in a state like Montana.”

Whitsitt also said journalism schools must teach young reporters more than just how to tell stories.

“That’s important, but a story told may not give the full range of views on an issue,” he said. “We need to be encouraging the use of good ethics codes that talk about the fact that there are always more than two sides to an important issue.”

Dr. Whitsitt will be a guest on an upcoming KGVO Talk Back show to talk further about the Greater Montana Foundation Survey.


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