‘Factual’ or ‘untrustworthy’? Public unsure of news and reporting practices

‘Factual’ or ‘untrustworthy’? Public unsure of news and reporting practices

A comparable one-fifth share of British adults describe British reporting and news as “factual” (22.5%), compared with “misleading” (20.6%), “untrustworthy” (19.4%) or “biased” (19.3%).

That is according to a survey, conducted by digital marketing agency Builtvisible with research consultancy Censuswide, aimed at understanding public perceptions of the news media.

The results found that mistrust was highest among Gen Z (22.7%), followed by those aged 55-plus (20.1%).

Influencing such mistrust appears to be a variety of factors, including privacy scandals such as phone-hacking (22.2%), a lack of noticeable objectivity (20.8%), sensationalism and clickbait (19%) and a lack of accountability for ethical breaches (18%).

A considerable proportion of respondents (39.2%) said they would like to see more emphasis given to transparency and accuracy in reporting, such as disclosing sources, attributions or methodologies in news articles.

News brands have for years emphasised the importance of the trustworthiness of their products, both for consumers and for advertisers.

In response to the report, Newsworks, the marketing body for the UK’s national newspapers, said: “Last year, we launched an extensive year-long study into trust to counter over-simplistic and misinformed interpretations of this important metric.

“Instead of randomly asking consumers whether they trust a brand or not, our robust study — which included extensive expert interviews, in-depth interviews with consumers and nationwide surveys with over 10,000 people — led to the development of a new, more accurate measurement, which considers the multifaceted nature of trust.”

Newsworks’ study examined respondents’ perception of news brands relating to four attributes — familiarity, fame, competence and risk — and found a halo effect exists for brands choosing to advertise against a news brand, stemming from news brand websites being seen as generally more competent and less risky than non-news brand websites.

Don’t write trust in media off as ‘wokery’, warns Peter Field

The Builtvisible survey results implied a lack of understanding among the public on the work done by editorial staff. For example, over a quarter (28%) said they think reporters do not carry out robust due diligence, such as fact-checking, but 42% said they don’t know how news stories are regulated.

When asked about specific titles, ironically, some of the UK’s most-popular news brands are also the ones respondents were most likely to say they actively avoid.

The Sun and the Daily Mail have the highest monthly reach among news outlets, according to latest PAMCo figures. However, 32% of respondents said they actively avoid, or no longer read, The Sun and more than one-fifth (22.4%) said the same of the Daily Mail. For comparison, 13% said they avoid The Guardian; 12% The Telegraph; 11% The Times; and 10% the Financial Times. 

More than a quarter (27%), on the other hand, said there are no publications they actually avoid or no longer read, although the vast majority reported engaging with news outlets that aligned with their personal values (73.7%).

The Sun and Mail neck and neck in total monthly reach

Builtvisible’s survey included responses from 2,000 consumers, dated December 2023.

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