Polls show Americans distrust the media. But talk to them, and it’s a very different story.

… I turned down invitations to speak in Istanbul, Moscow and even Paris in 2017, and instead visited Arizona, Alabama, Wisconsin, Indiana and small-town Pennsylvania. And for a deeper look, I spent six weeks this past summer working from someplace other than my perch in the newsroom in downtown Washington: I lived in Angola, a small town in western New York state, on the shores of Lake Erie. While there, I wrote my usual media columns, but I decided to do something else, too: talk to people about their media habits and trust.

I wasn’t just parachuting in for a couple of days and then leaving. And because I had grown up nearby, my roots in the area ran deep. I’d been a reporter for and the top editor of the local newspaper, the Buffalo News. I knew firsthand about the shuttered steel mills of my home town, the small city of Lackawanna. I knew that 2 in 5 children in the city of Buffalo live in poverty. And I knew that while the cities of western New York — Buffalo and Niagara Falls — had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the outskirts are as red as an old-school Starbucks holiday cup. …

By the end of my journey, I had interviewed 35 people and chatted with dozens of others. I found very little of what I feared most. And I discovered that some stereotypes about the way heartland Americans view the media don’t quite hold up. CONT.

Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post