Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Without Trust, the Media Loses Legitimacy

Social commentators are claiming that there has been a shift in the trust people place in news outlets, specifically the media and Parliament. The last decade has seen a steady decline in newspaper sales, once the go to centre for daily news. The industry was caught napping when social media began accessing and publishing the news before any mainstream outlets had caught sight of it.

New ways of delivering the news with multimedia content, online news sites, tailor made online news channels and the rise of citizen journalism has left those in the industry asking questions and those who seek their news sources questioning who they can trust to provide them with the facts.

Llanelli Online is regulated by IMPRESS and in an event this week in the Sir Harry Evans Room at IMPRESS, the author and consultant Rachel Botsman described the seismic change that is taking place in the world of trust.

She described a world where people are more likely to get into a stranger’s car or rent a stranger’s flat (via platforms such as Uber and Airbnb) than to trust once respected institutions such as the media or Parliament. Botsman described this as a shift from ‘institutional trust’ to ‘distributed trust’.

When asked whether news publishers should be worried about declining trust in the media, Botsman said: ‘Yes, definitely. Because of legitimacy. Does the media have the right to play that role in society if it loses trust? In that vacuum, people gravitate to less trustworthy alternatives and that’s what’s happening.’

Botsman was then asked how individual journalists could improve trust in a distrusted system. ‘If I was a journalist in a media organisation, I would ask two questions. How are your intentions as a media company aligned with the public? And who is accountable around here when things go wrong?’

She argued that, in order to be trusted, media organisations need to be ‘much clearer and more upfront about their intentions and where they’re coming from.’

Guests at the event included representatives of the worlds of media, finance, insurance, academia and the NGO sector. Attendees received a signed copy of Rachel’s new book, Who Can You Trust?, published by Penguin Portfolio.

This is the first in a series of lunchtime events at which IMPRESS will continue to explore the rapidly-changing environment for news publishing.

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