NEWS MEDIA: WINNING THE WAR?
NEWS MEDIA: WINNING THE WAR?October 17, 2019
In recent times, it’s become clear that increasing political polarisation has helped precipitate something of a crisis for news media. Commentators more frequently question whether news organisations still fulfil their basic mission of holding powerful people and institutions to account, as well as their ability to help audiences interpret the world they live in.
Would more transparency on the part of the press help people better understand the journalistic process, and go some way to countering the public feeling that news organisations often fall short of what people expect from them? Ultimately this could contribute to the longer-term sustainability of quality journalism around the world.
These are major concerns, which a recent Reuters’ digital news report attempted to explore, by looking at how people interpret news media and what their view is on media’s role towards them.
TRUST BOTH A CHALLENGE AND AN OPPORTUNITY
Much of the report makes for sober reading. Across all countries, Reuters found the average level of trust in the news has fallen by 2%, to 42%, with just under half of respondents believing that only the news sources they themselves use are trustworthy.
Worries about the quality of available information may however prove beneficial for the most trusted news media platforms, according to Reuters: 40% of the US population has started relying on more “reputable” sources of news, while a quarter has stopped using sources that have a “dubious” reputation. As such, the most renowned brands stand to gain advantage in the vast sea of modern and traditional media.
In terms of helping audiences understand what is happening in the world, 62% of respondents believe that news media is useful in keeping the public updated, though close to half feel media organisations don’t help them understand the news.
FAKE NEWS AND MEDIA BIAS
To add to this, more than two thirds of respondents from Brazil (85%), the UK (70%) and US (67%) are worried about what is real or fake on the internet, whilst that proportion is lower in Germany (38%) and the Netherlands (31%) where people seem to rely more on online sources for news.
It seems media literacy plays an important role in how people value news media: Reuters observes that the more highly educated people are, the more positively they tend to evaluate news provision, across a broad range of factors. This suggests that the news agenda is more tailored to their interests and needs, potentially disregarding other important segments of the population.
In the end, the implications of the Reuters report are clear: the international news industry is facing turmoil, as consumers struggle to distinguish high-quality journalism from the mass of often unreliable information published online. But there is also an opportunity here for the traditional news brands to remind the public why high-quality, informed journalism is valuable, and perhaps reclaim some market share in the process.