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The public feels a tabloid mentality is growing in the media, which it sees as too focused on the misdeeds and failings of public figures, according to a survey conducted by the Times Mirror Center for the Press & the Public.

The poll shows local TV news commands the least respect from the public.

The survey, which follows up past polls by the center showing an increased wariness of the media, indicates some specific areas where the distrust is most prevalent:

Network TV is trusted by 68% of the public, a figure almost identical to national newspapers and national magazines. Meanwhile local TV is trusted by 59%, about the same as local newspapers.

The press is seen as too adversarial by 60% of the public and 61% of opinion leaders.

Nearly two-thirds of the general public feel the news media have spent too much time doing stories on President Clinton's character (vs. only 39% of members of the national news media polled).

Nearly three-quarters of the public feel journalists drive the personal scandals of politicians rather than just reporting facts.

"What it says is the public still wants the press in a watchdog role, but it wants a better mannered one with not as much blood lust," said Andrew Kohut, center director. "The press has to convey that it is protecting the public interest, not merely uncovering wrongdoing for the sake of uncovering wrongdoing."

The survey also compared the public's view of journalism with the actual views of journalists, with some surprising results.

Journalists turned out to be much less cynical about politicians and officeholders than the public, with 49% of the general public distrustful vs. about 25% of journalists.

While 22% of the public felt the national media were sensationalistic, only 11% of journalists agreed.

And 48% of the journalists felt there was too little coverage of the Clinton administration's achievements, while only 35% of the public agreed, with 22% saying there had been too much coverage.

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