Call it the Ron Burgundy effect. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press put out its most recent ratings of believability of news organizations and it’s bad. The average positive believability across 13 news organizations went from 62% in 2010 to today’s low of 56%. To give you some kind of perspective, 10 years ago the average rating for the news organizations tested was 71%. What they did is ask 1001 people to rate 13 news organizations from 1 – 4 and “a rating of 4 means someone believes ‘all or most’ of what the news organization says; a rating of 1 means someone believes ‘almost nothing’ of what they say.” So consequently, a score of 3 or 4 is “positive” for believability and a score of 1 or 2 is “negative” for believability.
So how does Ron Burgundy fit into this? Local TV (along with 60 Minutes) is on top when it comes to believability – they got a 65% positive rating and 35% negative rating – and they’ve maintained that top status for a long time. In case you’re not a fan, Ron Burgundy – played by comedian Will Farrell in the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy – is a 1970’s anchorman for a fictional local San Diego TV station. While the movie facetiously portrays the 70’s as the heyday of the anchorman as local celebrity (with all the braggadocio a burgundy blazer can inspire) , Pew’s research suggest most people still look to their local anchors and reporters as the most credible sources of information in their communities.
In 2011, Pew did a similar study this time comparing the low state of believability of news organizations with other sources of information. They found that though the credibility of news organizations have been on the decline for years, others fared worse: “while the public holds news organizations in low regard, they are more trusted as a source of information than are federal, state and local governments, the Obama administration and business corporations.”
All this is to say, when developing a media strategy, think local… as in local TV news. If you want to get your message out and have it believed, then you’ll need to depend on local TV newsgathers to help you. While they have lost some of their sway and influence (and wide ties) of the 70’s, they often are the best we’ve got in a jaded and skeptical world to inspire at least a modicum of trust.
By the way, Will Ferrell is already working on Ron Burgundy’s return in Anchorman 2.