Trust in the Media

We need hand curated news services. The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2017 confirms that public trust in business, government, NGOs, and media institutions is falling. They say that in ‘all four key institutions trust has declined broadly’. This is a phenomenon not reported since they started tracking trust in in 2012.

It is not surprising that trust in media has reached an all-time low in the general population. The number of people in the UK say they trusted the media fell from 36% in 2016’s Barometer and is now at 24%. Their Trust 10 is enlightening. At number 6 is the most frightening part of this report – the so-called ‘media echo chamber’.

It confirms the trend for the general population being very narrow in their choices and opinions. People are four times more likely to ignore information that supports a position they don’t believe in. This was something we saw during the recent US presidential election on Facebook. Not only this but depressingly they are more likely to trust social media algorithms over human editors.

What people forget is that people working for large influential organisations write the algorithms. Furthermore, algorithms aim to please. They are designed to track your interests and send your feeds information related to what you have accessed previously. Hence the problem with confirming and encouraging bias.

This report is timely. Facebook has recently launched a fact checker in Germany. German users will be able to flag potentially false stories. And then they will be passed to third-party fact-checkers for reliability. If it is found to be a problem, it will be marked in users’ news feeds as ‘disputed’. Increasingly large organisations are employing fact checkers but the damage has been done.

Sources of news are also problematic. We can’t blame social media and Google for everything. When much of what used to be quality press is now a string of Twitter opinions, it is clear standards of journalism have fallen. To re-establish trust, media organisations need to invest in responsible investigations with a calm considered unpicking of issues. But that is another story.

What is needed currently is a broad based overview of the media available. No newspaper will be without bias but extremes must be examined carefully and intelligently. A hand curated selection of stories from reliable sources direct to your inbox is Iris Briefing’s goal.