Dean Nelson
Dean Nelson

By Rick Griffin

Who is to blame for our partisan, divided country? According to a survey of 20,000 people by Gallop and the Knight Foundation, 84 percent of Americans believe the news media is the cause.

Respondents agreed that “the media is to blame for political division in this country,” though the same percentage also believe the media “can serve as a healing force.”

The press also has a clear political bias, the survey found. A whopping 86 percent of Americans believe media outlets lean one way or another politically, with 49% saying there’s “a great deal” of bias, while 37% say “a fair amount.”

In addition, Americans think the media is pushing an agenda. Three in four people (74%) worry that owners of media companies are influencing coverage, up five points since 2017. They also suspect that inaccuracies in reporting are purposeful, with 54% believing that reporters misrepresent the facts and another 28% believe reporters are guilty of “making facts up entirely.”

MarketInk logo

“While Americans increasingly value the media’s role in our democracy,” the report said, “they are losing confidence in the idea of an objective media as perceptions of bias grow.”

In response, Times of San Diego received comments from several local news media observers.

“The vast majority of what is on television is speculation, analysis and opinion, not news. I think a lot of people confuse ‘news reporting’ with the commentators, pundits and professional antagonizers who are on ‘news’ programs. Are these professional antagonizers trying to divide the country? Of course they are, because that’s how they make money. But, if you ask if mainstream news operations are dividing the country, or trying to, the answer is no. An informed citizenry is the only way democracy works. There are plenty of news organizations that are committed to informing, not persuading. It’s the public’s job to be informed, and lots of news organizations are doing a great job of sticking to facts on their news pages and in their news programs. Being well informed actually pulls us together, not apart.”

— Dean Nelson, founder and director of the journalism program, Point Loma Nazarene University.

“You can’t pin all of the division in the country on the news media. The press is certainly part of the reason, but there are other forces out there who want to divide us, I’m talking about the anarchists who show-up during the riots. The unfortunate part is that many in the mainstream news media restrict their friendships to colleagues who think like them, which is why they can’t accept it when a Republican wins. What’s new with this election is censorship by social media. The other day my tweet was rejected because the subject line said ‘attention voters.’ So, I kept the content the same but changed the headline to ‘worth noting’ and Twitter accepted it. Also, Facebook rejected my post about new Covid numbers from the CDC, and yet the source was the CDC, a government agency. It’s scary but big tech is working overtime right now to restrict the public’s access to information.”

– Mark Larson, political analysis, KUSI-TV, radio talk-show host, KFMB-AM

 “When there is no trust in journalists and journalism, then people lose the ability to know what is and is not true and are much more susceptible to propaganda messaging. A problem that has arisen in this country is that because so much news is consumed via social media. Both traditional news stories and stories that are less reliable, or completely false, are all given equal weight on social media platforms, and so when we think of `the media,’ there is skepticism about it because so much is unreliable and people don’t distinguish between traditional news sources and their crazy uncle sharing information from some fringe website.”

— Temple Northup, director, School of Journalism & Media Studies, San Diego State University.

“It is gratifying the majority value the media’s role in our democracy. The lack of trust in media sources is disheartening and understandable given the deluge of information channels. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth. Readers and viewers should expect the information they’re consuming is verified and learn the difference between commentary and news.” 

— Eileen Gaffen, 2020-2021 president, San Diego Press Club.

“Do I trust the media? Depends on who it is. I believe that the news media collectively and individually deserve some of the blame for the division in this country. Everyone has an opinion but it should be labeled as such in the media. Unfortunately, some journalists wear their opinions on their sleeves. What would be helpful is a factual presentation of the news with opinion labeled as such and presented on the editorial pages as well as the broadcast and cable programs.”

— Attorney Martin Kruming, who taught a Media Law & Ethics class for the past 10 years in SDSU’s School of Journalism & Media Studies.

The survey was part of Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Trust, Media and Democracy research series, which aims to address the decline in trust for journalism and other democratic institutions by examining the causes and supporting solutions. A statement from the surveyors said specific percentage numbers are expected to be revised after the election.

Pepsico Marketer Joins San Diego-based Qboda as CMO

San Diego-based Qdoba, a fast-casual Mexican restaurant chain previously operated by Jack in the Box, has named former PepsiCo marketing exec Jeannie Cho as chief marketing officer. The company said Cho will lead Qboda’s marketing and brand strategies for the chain’s next phase of growth.

Jeannie Cho
Jeannie Cho

“I am excited to have Jeannie, a seasoned food-industry marketing executive, as an integral member of the Qdoba team,” said Keith Guilbault, CEO of Qdoba. “She brings tremendous ability to elevate our brand position and purpose to achieve top-line growth through her strategic and breakthrough thinking. I am confident that Jeannie’s analytical and creative approach to marketing will lead to even greater success for Qdoba.”

Prior to joining Qdoba, Cho held roles at PepsiCo where she led multi-billion dollar brand portfolios to industry leading growth. Most recently, she served as VP of marketing, Frito-Lay Portfolio, and previously as VP of marketing, global brands (Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos). During her tenure, Cho launched multiple award-winning innovative brand campaigns and products, reinvigorating brands to cultural relevance and record growth.

Cho received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and a master’s degree in business administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I am excited to join Qdoba and partner with Keith and the leadership team to accelerate the growth agenda for the brand,” said Cho. “I look forward to amplifying the brand story to unlock a taste of extra flavor to enrich the lives of our guests and the communities we serve.”

With more than 730 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Qboda was voted best fast-casual restaurant in 2019 and 2020 by USA Today 10Best. It has five outlets in California, including Culver City, Los Angeles, Orange, Pomona and a concession venue at the San Diego airport.

Headquarters are in Mission Valley at Ampersand, an office building formerly occupied by The San Diego Union-Tribune. In 2018, Jack in the Box, which operated Qdoba for 15 years, sold its interest in the chain to Apollo Global Management Group for a reported $305 million.

Estrella Media Launches Spanish-language 24-Hour News Network

Spanish-language media company Estrella Media, based in Burbank, has launched Estrella News, a 24-hour, multi-platform news network. The company said it is the first Spanish-language media company in the U.S. to provide news content in live digital and streaming format 24/7.

Estrella said its news channel is currently available for free on its digital channels, as well as Tubi with plans to appear soon on the Ruku Channel and Samsung’s TV Plus. Tubi, owned by Fox Corp., which is separate from 21st Century Fox, claims more than 33 million monthly active users and total view time surpassing 200 million hours per month, according to Estrella.

Content for Estrella News will include local, national, entertainment and sports news segments produced by affiliates in Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and Miami. Also included will be news stories about issues affecting Mexico, Central and South America.

“During such an unprecedented time, we were inspired to launch the first-ever, Spanish-language 24/7 news portal in the U.S. and to partner with Tubi,” Peter Markham, CEO, Estrella Media, said in a statement. “This undoubtedly marks a new chapter in the history of Spanish-language news media. Estrella News will provide the best and most relevant Spanish-language news content to the U.S. Hispanic audience, ensuring our communities will have easy access to breaking news on any device, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

San Diego AMA Connecting Customers to Cause

The American Marketing Association’s San Diego chapter will present a free webinar, “Connecting Consumers and Customers to Your Cause,” from 11 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Nov. 5, over Zoom. AMA said some ideas never get off the ground because of a failure to inspire others and maximize every opportunity. Speakers will include three leaders from civic and cause-minded organizations, including: Sarah Lemons, president, Public Relations Society of America, San Diego-Imperial Counties chapter; Adrienne Collins Yancey, coordinator, County of San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, Maternal, Child and Family Health Services Perinatal Equity Initiative;  Danene Brown, marketing chair, San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association. Moderator will be Stacey Nelson Smith, founder and CEO, Civilian Agency. With questions, contact Sam Wheeler, 2020-2021 AMA president, For registration information, visit

Rick Griffin
Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.