LONDON: Most people don’t trust the mainstream media and are even more suspicious of social media, a survey revealed on Thursday, though it said social networks were vital for under-reported stories such as LGBT and migrant issues.
The latest Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found high scepticism about news and comment, with 33 per cent of more than 70,000 consumers polled in 36 countries saying they can’t rely on the news to be true.
Only 24 per cent of people said social media did a good job separating fact from fiction, compared to 40 per cent for mainstream media.
In countries like the United States and Britain, people were twice as likely to have faith in the news media to weed out fake news.
Greece was the only country where people said social media was better at dividing truth from fantasy.
“Although mainstream media is not trusted, it is still trusted twice as much for separating fact from fiction as social media,” Nic Newman, lead author of the sixth annual Digital News Report, said.
“Fake news could be the best thing that has happened to journalism in a long while.
It’s an opportunity to re-establish the value of mainstream brands and focus on quality.”
Newman said this has led to a hike in digital subscriptions to news organisations in the US, with 16 per cent now prepared to pay for news compared to 9 per cent, and evidence that more people might be prepared to pay elsewhere.
Despite a commonly held view that younger consumers would not pay online, the annual study that examines global news consumption found people under 35 were willing to pay for quality news, just as they did for music and video services.
The online survey, by pollster YouGov, was the first time the Reuters Institute has looked at the response to the quality of information on social media, with 54 per cent of consumers now using social media for news.
The Reuters Institute, which is funded by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has looked previously at overall levels of trust in the media, finding a strong connection between distrust in the media and perceived media bias. This was strongest in nations with high levels of political polarisation like the United States, Hungary and Italy.
“In the United States, trust in the media has increased a bit in the past year partly because a lot of the mistrust came from people on the right, Trump supporters,” said Newman.
WhatsApp key platform
Instant messaging service WhatsApp has emerged as a force to reckon with in news media, apparently at the cost of its owner Facebook. The authors provide several potential explanations for WhatsApp’s rise. Its use of end-to-end encryption means messages can only be seen by their senders and recipients, offering users protection against being monitored by the authorities.