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Research: Lack of trust in media perpetuates belief in fake news

By Rahul Sethi

As appearing on the INMA blog on July 30, 2018.

In partnership with Kantar, Vividata recently released the Trust in News Study. This study delves into how Canadians feel about their news sources in the era of ‘fake news’, their preferred and trusted sources, and the importance of quality journalism.

The study, unsurprisingly, shows that there is a scarcity in trust with the proliferation of ‘fake news’ online. While fake news is not a new phenomenon, present occurrences spread rapidly via social media platforms. As of late, the worldwide impact that such fake news has had on elections and referendums has demonstrated cause for concern. Just last month, Facebook Canada even announced that they will launch a third-party, fact-checking program to root out fake news; how effective this program will be remains to be seen.

What is Fake News?

The Trust in News Study shows that 9 out of 10 Canadian adults are aware of the term ‘fake news’, but the term seems to mean several things to Canadians:

  • 6 out of 10 believe that fake news means a mainstream news organization has deliberately fabricated news.
  • 43% believe that it is a story put out by someone pretending to be a news organization.
  • 42% also believe it implies a story is factually incorrect (possibly by mistake).

The Ethical Journalism Network defines fake news best, as: dis-information, mis-information, and mal-information. However, looking beyond the proper definition of fake news, 1 out of 4 Canadians say they now trust mainstream news organizations less. But, all is not lost as audiences do see the importance of quality news and journalism.

Building on a Heritage of Trust

Eight out of 10 Canadians believe that the health of our democracy depends on journalists reporting the facts accurately, and half of the adult population feel people choosing to use more credible news sources is an effective way to tackle fake news. This is where traditional media, such as newspaper brands, begin to matter.

Fake news has had more of a detrimental impact on trust in digital only news outlets and social media than it has on traditional or mainstream news. This makes sense as traditional news organization have a greater reputation for producing quality content and have built a history of trust with audiences. A reputation that should continue to be leveraged as audiences filter through what they deem credible or not.

In fact, printed national daily newspapers show 70% of their audience rates them high on trust, versus just 32% who do so for digital only news outlets and 19% for social media.

While newspaper brands may fall slightly behind radio and TV for overall trust, when it comes to providing audiences with in-depth commentary and analysis, printed national daily newspapers come out on top.

While leveraging a heritage of trust and a reputation for providing in-depth content is crucial for retaining and growing an audience, it’s also crucial for advertisers. It’s well known that ad effectiveness increases in trusted environments. Newspaper brands provide such an environment for audiences and advertisers to develop their own relationship. Newspaper brands are the informed friend that provides sound advice. Such a position is important to maintain and develop with the amount of snake oil sales that are now prevalent.

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