21 September 2018
Australians have a trust issue with journalists. So we wanted to know: would audiences be more willing to trust if news media acted more like a friend?
In May 2018, we held four workshops in Sydney and Tamworth to ask Australians about their relationship with news media. Our focus was on trust, and we wanted to ask three big questions. First, how do Australians use news media? Second, how do they trust and relate to news media? And third, how might their trust in news media be rebuilt?
Today, we're launching the results of those workshops, in a report: Trust and News Media in Australia: A Qualitative Study. The participants didn't hold back.
“Too much sensationalism and rubbish being touted as news e.g. winners of MKR (My Kitchen Rules). Various outlets trying to outdo each other. No proofreading! So many spelling and grammatical errors.”
“Often very biased blatantly misleading/dishonest/prejudice. All about hype of breaking stories, not substance and truth of stories.
Fortunately, the workshops turned out to be much more than an exercise in journalist-bashing. They were constructive and forward-looking. Participants discussed the positives of their relationship with news media, noting the importance of journalists' information-gathering role, and the risks they take. Further, consumers appreciated the abundance of content in a digital landscape.
“I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on in the world without them, so I suppose [I feel] thankful or grateful. I feel like they often take many risks so that we can have important well-rounded information so I’m both impressed and again thankful.”
“I think that it is wonderful that there are so many different sources/types of news media available and accessible 24/7 if desired.”
And as we dug deeper into the relationship between news media and its audiences, we also set out to test the hypothesis that users want their news media to be more peer-to-peer, less top-down. This would align with a general shift towards distributed trust, and away from institutional trust. Hence we asked if users wanted their news media to be more, “like a friend.”
They didn't. This came as a surprise. And it constitutes just one of many valuable insights into how we might best restore trust in journalism.