Distrust in the Media: Who can we trust?


BY RUTH DAVISON

The media barely goes a day without being accused of falsifying one thing or another. Whether it’s The Donald spreading accusations of Fake News, Vanity Fair photoshopping extra limbs on celebrities or social media creating a mountain out of a molehill. But are these frequent inaccuracies examples of genuine mistakes, explained on a case by case basis or is the media actually becoming a less trustworthy platform? And if so, is there anyone we can believe anymore?!

Unfortunately for many, the above statement is true. Our faith in the accuracy of news sources is beginning to wilt and as a result many are avoiding the news all together. A recent study by Edelman Intelligence found that one in five are avoiding the news altogether because it’s ‘too depressing’, ‘too biased’ and ‘controlled by hidden agendas’. Unfortunately however, that’s just the nature of the news, and a reflection of the world we live in, but regardless of this it cannot be denied that our consumption of news and indeed the way we consume it is changing as a result.

About a year or so ago, many people, including myself, were writing about how social media was not only the cause of the change but also the saviour of news. People accessing their headlines on the go via twitter and getting their news summarised into 140 character headlines was something of game changer. But it seems that is no longer the case. It seems that social media has become the scourge of news.  The Edelman’s UK Trust Barometer Supplement survey found that social media is in fact the least trusted source for news, with only 24% of their 3,000 respondents trusting it. This reinforces the findings of a survey by Radiocentre in 2017 that also named social media as the least trusted medium, with only 15% choosing it as a trustworthy source for news.

Can we really be surprised? Has social media really ever been the source of truth? You only have to look at Instagram for example. News flash! Nobody’s house actually looks like that day to day, neither does anyone have a pristine face full of make up after an hour at the gym. It’s just not reality. Then there’s the influencer issue. Don’t get me wrong, done properly influencers can be an excellent addition to your campaign. Hiring the right people with the right audience to promote your brand has indisputable benefits, particularly when talking about products; a study by collective bias revealed that 70% of millennials are influence by the recommendations of their peers. Unfortunately though there are some influencer/agencies that embody the dishonesty under discussion.

The New York Times conducted an investigation into a company that sells Twitter followers and retweets to those wanting to pitch themselves as influencers. The investigation reveals that many of the accounts that engage with these people are in fact fraudulent; often clones of real people, using their image, bio and personal details. So common are these fake accounts that the report estimates 15% of Twitter’s 330 million active users is taken up by them. That’s a staggering 48 million fake accounts. So if the people on social media themselves aren’t real, can we really trust anything we read on there?

Thankfully though, all hope is not lost. It seems that not all media is deemed dishonest and the population has not entirely turned its back on all means of news communication. The recent negative attitudes towards social has seemingly had a positive effect on more traditional media. Edelman’s research backs this up, indicating support levels for traditional media has reached levels it hasn’t seen since 2012. But which mediums in particular do we have confidence in? The research from Radiocentre revealed radio as the most trusted news source in the evening and afternoon, with TV taking the reins in the evening. Furthermore it revealed a preference for commercial radio, with 83% listening to it in the morning. The study states that commercial radio’s value to listeners is its localism, as 50% of the population tune into local commercial radio every week. As well as that, the fact that commercial radio provides 13 hours and 15 minutes of public value broadcast each week is a big draw for audiences and a key reason behind people’s trust in radio overall.

With that in mind, the benefits of radio to brands looking to build their reputation are huge. At 4mediarelations we know broadcast inside out and our campaigns include interviews with commercial and BBC stations, both national and local, which means that your story can reach your audience, and be part of the 13 hours of public value broadcasting that audience’s desire.

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