Trust down the drain
Just 15% of left-leaning voters now say they trust most news most of the time, down from 46% as recently as 2015, Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found.
The precipitous decline has coincided with enormous growth of social media audiences, rounds of cuts at almost every major news outlet, and strong criticism of media coverage of issues such as Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party.
“Trust in the news has fallen over 20 percentage points since 2015,” concluded the authors of the Reuters Institute’s annual digital news report. “Even the most trusted brands like the BBC are seen by many as pushing or suppressing agendas, especially over polarising issues like Brexit.”
As this newsletter has mentioned in the past, the decline in trust is sometimes justified. Political journalists too often cut corners and treat each utterance from their unnamed sources as gospel, without considering if they’re being played or not. But, even when they do their jobs well, journalists neglect to share how their newsgathering works, leading to overblown conspiracy theories spreading about even the most minor mistake.
And as Jim Waterson of the Guardian tweeted
this morning, it’s not just the media to blame for the decline in trust. Politicians exploit declining trust to rally their supporters in the face of true stories that make them look bad (“it’s fake news,” “it’s shoddy journalism”). And every time the public reads a viral social media post about how ‘the BBC isn’t covering’ a story they absolutely are, it hammers home the message that the media is not to be trusted.
So there’s lots of blame to spread around when it comes to declining trust in the media. And we’ll all lose out when the trust is completely gone. But only the media can solve it, by not only acting in a trustworthy way, but by respecting the audience and sharing more about how it gathers and disseminates news. With a concerted effort, they could around the situation around.