Study: “People Often Consume Media They Don’t Trust”

Study: “People Often Consume Media They Don’t Trust”
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What will it take for audiences to fall back “in love” with journalism? That’s the question on the lips of researchers at the Centre for Media Transition (CMT) at the University of Technology Sydney.

As part of its investigation into public trust in journalism, the CMT has this week released an extensive annotated bibliography examining the current body of knowledge in dozens of countries and regions around the world.

Trust in Journalism – An Annotated Bibliography summarises public opinion polls and surveys, peer-reviewed academic papers and perspectives from the journalistic field. In compiling this work, CMT researchers identified a number of trends:

  • For some young people, user-generated is more trustworthy than mainstream
  • A majority of people (esp. young) prefer algorithms/AI to select stories rather than editors
  • Credibility increases with exposure: frequent internet users trust online news more
  • Different demographics (men/women; white/black/Hispanic; old/young) trust differently
  • People often consume media they don’t trust
  • High-quality videos increase the credibility of a news item

Quantitative research was considerably more prevalent than qualitative but does little to explain why audiences do or do not trust journalism. This question is key to the CMT’s core objective to identify successful new business models for journalism, in which trust must be front and centre.

Professor Peter Fray, co-director of the CMT, said the research that identifies the nuanced nature of both trust and audiences is needed.

“Fixation on measurement doesn’t do much to advance our understanding of the range of factors and complex processes by which consumers place trust in journalism, news organisations or individual media channels,” said Professor Fray.

The annotated bibliography has helped the CMT identify useful research strategies for its work investigating trust in journalism, which is funded in part by Facebook Australia. In May, the CMT held workshops in Tamworth and Sydney asking news users how trust can be rebuilt. The results of this research will be published in the CMT’s upcoming report on trust in journalism, scheduled for release in July 2018.

The annotated bibliography is also intended to provide a valuable resource for the many academic and industry initiatives currently investigating the nexus between trust and news, including Trusting News, The Trust Project, News Integrity Initiative and the Trust in News Initiative, among others.

“I can’t praise enough the work done by researcher Elaine McKewon, who compiled the bibliography,” said Professor Fray. “She showed great skill as both researcher and curator. This is excellent work.”

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