Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, discussed the public's continued lack of confidence in the media in an interview with The New York Observer dated March 13. "In a world where we don't have a belief in a single source, you don't have a Walter Cronkite anymore. Public relations is the discipline on the rise," Edelman told reporter Jason Horowitz. "Public relations plays much better in a world that lacks trust." Earlier this year, the agency released its seventh annual Trust Barometer, a survey of nearly 2,000 opinion leaders in 11 countries. In the latest survey, global opinion leaders say their most credible source of information about a company is now "a person like me," which has risen dramatically to surpass doctors and academic experts for the first time, according to the seventh annual Edelman In the United States, trust in "a person like me" increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 68 percent today. Opinion leaders also consider rank-and-file employees more credible spokespeople than corporate CEOs (42 percent vs. 28 percent in the United States). On the media front, television was the big loser with the rise of the Internet. When asked where they turn first for trustworthy information, 29 percent of respondents in the United States still cite TV first, down from 39 percent three years ago. The Internet is now cited by 19 percent of respondents, up from 10 percent in 2003. The same trend is evident in the U.K., where television has declined from 42 percent to 33 percent as respondents' first choice, while the Internet has risen from 5 percent to 15 percent. Newspapers, which are often thought to be the most serious casualty of the Internet wave, show rankings essentially unchanged in most markets at approximately 20 percent. Newspapers remain the first trusted medium of choice for respondents in France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Korea and Italy. Edelman is a strong proponent of blogging, and his agency currently works with giants such as Wal-mart on blogging campaigns. Writing on his blog March 7, Edelman said: "The blogosphere is an excellent new source of story ideas for mainstream media. It can be a refreshingly open marketplace for candid exchange of views. It enables the online editions of traditional media, such as bbc.com, to build communities of interest around specific subject areas and to retain and involve readers for a longer period. But the blogs have also challenged the authority of mainstream media, by holding reporters to account on factual errors, by claiming scoops on stories, by becoming personalities and by exercising their right to opinion." In fact, blogging has taken off so much so that perhaps PR practitioners may no longer be so dependent on traditional media. As he told The New York Observer: "It used to be I would schmooze you and I was your flack. Today, if we want to get a message into the public's conversation, we just make a post on a blog. If The Wall Street Journal goes after a client, we don't have to accept that anymore. Let's post the documents we gave The Journal; let's show the interviews the newspaper decided not to show."You're not God anymore."
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