A new study on how Americans view news coverage drills deeper into the reasons that they have declining trust in news sources. The research by Gallup and the Knight Foundation comes as news organizations are looking or way to rebuild trust while also finding a sustainable business model.
A majority of Americans (53%) believe most local news organizations “care about how their reporting affects their community,” according to the study. Contrast that with the finding that most Americans also believe “national news organizations are capable but not always the most well intentioned.” Half believe that national news sites “intend to mislead, misinform or persuade the public.”
While this report seems to be good news for local news outlets, those newsrooms are the ones most vulnerable in the ongoing uncertain business environment. And it appears the public does not understand how economically fragile local news sites have become. If the public believes local news is more trustworthy, local news leaders must find ways to get more people in their community to pay for the news that they consume. Right now not enough people are paying for local news — at least not to the level that would keep newsrooms from regularly laying off journalists to make the bottom line.
This latest study on newsroom trust is an important one, and it’s getting the attention of the news industry. The study of 5,593 Americans aged 18 and older was conducted between May 31 and July 21, 2022.
We will see if news leaders actually do something that will begin to restore trust in news at all levels. While local news is more trustworthy, according to the study, overall all trust in news media remains low, and that impacts journalists at al levels.
Only 26% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the news media. This distrust is even more pronounced among Republicans, but it also is growing among voters describing themselves as independents. Newsroom managers have often waived off the trust issue, saying it’s part of the political divide, and there’s not a lot they can do about that issue. The study says otherwise, and that’s concerning.
“Perceptions of political bias in news coverage have also increased, with independents driving the trend, followed by Republicans, then Democrats,” according to the study. “Young people continue to hold more negative perceptions of the news media than older generations, confirming previous findings.”
Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen said rebuilding trust is crucial to the future of the news industry.
“This data offers further evidence that sustainable journalism begins and ends with trust,” he said. “We believe a citizenry that trusts the news is more informed, more engaged and better prepared to participate meaningfully in our democracy.”
The study looks into “the disconnect between newsrooms’ efforts to rebuild the public’s trust and the continued decline of confidence in that effort.” It explores the trust issue by distinguishing between the “practical and emotional dimensions of trust.” The findings show that “emotional trust” in news organizations is linked to whether people want to pay to receive news coverage and to how they feel in general about the state of American democracy.
The study confirms what we know anecdotally: Most people are overwhelmed by the information environment, with all types of news and other content being blasted at them on all of their digital devices. Sixty-one percent say the increase in information today makes it harder to be well-informed. They find it difficult to sort through news and information to find out what’s true.
Asked where they get there news, 58% said online, 31% said television, 7% said radio and 3% mentioned printed newspapers or magazines. But younger Americans overwhelmingly get their news online.
The news industry has many challenges in this area, but a big one is building trust among young people — the news consumers who may well decide the future of the news industry.