Trust me, it’s personal
Mirror editor-in-chief Alison Phillips explains what trust actually means, not just for journalism, but the entire media industry.
For understandable reasons, it seems that ‘trust’ has become a buzzword and you’d be forgiven for forgetting what it actually means. Not just from my side of the world in editorial, but right across the entire media industry.
As a journalist trust is the most precious and delicate bond we have with our readers. They trust us to inform them, advise them and to be there for them. But like any relationship, it is two-way, and one which takes time, effort, and understanding to build.
You can’t just magic it up overnight. When we, as journalists, get it right, our readers let us know and on those occasions we don’t – and, let’s be honest, nobody gets it right one hundred percent of the time – they really make sure we know about it.
My job as Mirror editor isn’t just about choosing which stories are going into the paper or across our online platforms. In fact, one of my most important jobs is about listening to our readers, then engaging with them and taking onboard their feedback.
I have to make sure we are giving them what they want, when they want it and in the format that suits them. And they rely on us to do this for them day in day out. In my mind, that is where a trusted relationship begins to form.
More widely, national news brands registered a huge surge in readership as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the country, and the entire world. The same happened with the Queen’s passing, the Lionesses winning the Euros, and in the cost-of-living crisis.
Just look at the numbers. The latest PAMCo figures, which came out a few weeks ago, show a rise to 27 million readers a day across national news brands, which is an astonishing figure.
Trusted source of information
Encouragingly there’s younger, digitally native audiences relying on news brands for trusted information in a crowded attention marketplace.
With 14 million readers aged 15-34 a month across print and online, national news publishers reach six million more people than Snapchat and five million more than TikTok.
This is backed up by a comprehensive study Newsworks undertook called World Without News, which showed that 66% of news consumers said they “appreciate and value journalism more since the global coronavirus pandemic began”.
And the increase was most stark in the under 35-year-olds, with “77% valuing the work of journalists more now in providing reliable information and news”.
In a world blighted by misinformation, disinformation and fake news – primarily spread by the social media platforms – it is perhaps unsurprising that more people than ever before are putting their trust in more established media including TV, radio and news brands.
In fact, in these uncertain times – almost three quarters (73%) agree it’s important that their source of news is from a respected news provider, according to Newsworks research.
With this in mind, what irks me is how easily trust is thrown around in conversations, and in studies and reports in such a removed way. It just seems that the way trust is evaluated by many experts is too abstract and therefore removed from reality.
At the beginning of the year, I spoke at Mediatel’s Year Ahead event and I explained that trust is a very personal emotion.
I trust my friends and family, and those colleagues I work most closely with. But I can’t give an opinion about whether I trust somebody that I don’t know and never have. That just wouldn’t make sense.
When I relate this back to the media industry the same philosophy rings true. Somebody for instance who doesn’t read a particular news brand, or watch a particular TV channel, is not well-placed to comment on how trusted that media is.
I believe too often the conversations around trust are far too one-dimensional and therefore, to be blunt, we end up with wrong and lazily held evaluations of this precious emotion.
And this just doesn’t add up. Instead, we need to get to a truer and universally held definition of what we mean by trust, and who it matters to.
For me, that’s my readers, and potential new readers. Not somebody who has never read the Mirror and is never going to.
It all it starts with being more personal, authentic and related to the people that matter to you and your brand.
If we can start being more honest about how we define and analyse trust, then I really feel we can start to have better conversations.
And that can only benefit us all and will help to improve how trust is perceived across the entire media landscape.
Alison Phillips is editor-in-chief of the Mirror at Reach.