Trust the media

What’s Happening to Our News is a new independent British report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.  Based on interviews with industry experts, it is focussed on how “digital natives” (that’s young ‘uns) use media sources differently than “digital immigrants”.

Basically, “natives” use multiple digital sources (including social networks and blogs) for news rather than traditional news sources, don’t spend much time looking at any one source, come at sites from reader feeds rather than home pages and expect to interact with news providers rather than be passive recipients of their wisdom.

The report is concerned that since news outlets earn less from the web (so far), they are likely to cut-back on content producers, in favour of people who process the content and make their sites pretty.  There’s plenty of evidence the first half of this is already happening, with journalists losing jobs left, right and centre.

It recommends “quality control” for online news sources in the form of a “kitemark” and targeted tax breaks for public interest news reporting.

When the media thinks about why the public is abandoning traditional news sources, there is rarely any self-analysis.  I welcome the idea of verifying news sources – but how would it be measured?  Because the fact is, mainstream media, while continuing to form mainstream opinion on a variety of issues, just does not cut the mustard for many of us these days.

Media academic Jeff Jarvis is brave enough to state a key problem – in the US, 52% do not trust the media, up from 30% in 1972.  A multi-country survey came up with 39% not trusting the media – inflated by some very high figures of trustfulness in Nigeria and India. 

trustmediaThe Flat Earth News – a book about media distortion and “churnalism” (the uncritical use of press releases) from award-winning journalist Nick Davies – has spawned a media watchdog website.

In Aotearoa New Zealand in 2007, journalists ranked 34th in the most trusted professions – below business executives, police officers and financial planners – all of whom had quite a year.

Many segments of New Zealand society – notably New Zealanders from ethnic minority groups – have even less trust in the media because they feel ignored or misrepresented. Which is a problem for the media, since by 2026 MSD expect 43% of our population will be Maori, Pacifica or Asian New Zealanders.  

Episode 25 of the usually excellent Media 7 last year completely missed the point of Media Diversity awards – that there are growing and thriving ethnic minority news media, particularly in Auckland, because these communities do not have their needs met by mainstream media.  Possibly having a group of white men to talk about Media Diversity was less than sensitive in itself.

I have no answers to the business model questions confronting mainstream media, but I do have an interest in news content being robust, fair and accurate. In placing events in suitable context – what Tim Watkin recently describing as having vegetables with his meat.  He is concerned about the state of the media in New Zealand because:

The demise of the serious current affairs shows, documentaries and one-on-one interviews on television, the lack of experience, space and staff at the major newspapers, the slide towards irrelevance of a magazine such as the Listener, the partisan banter that dominates the radio airwaves and the internet… it all amounts to a lack of context.

Until the media acknowledges how left out and badly represented many feel by “mainstream news”, I don’t think they will really understand why “digital natives” have abandoned them.  Or why so many “digital immigrants” don’t trust them either.

Perhaps the first news outlet to get that and put it out there online will find a way to keep news alive and pay good journalists.

Oh, and I’m back from my internship 😉

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2 thoughts on “Trust the media

  1. Pingback: Maggie’s Blog » Blog Archive » Yahoo Cutting Global Staff 10% Under New Ceo, Carol Bartz - Could …

  2. I wanted to be a journalist and did two years of a journalism degree back in the early 1980s in Toronto. But that study put me in direct contact with major media outlets in that city and some of the senior journalists who ran them, and it became obvious to me that most media were the creatures of their proprietors…..and the “truth” was an accidental pby-product provided it wasn’t directly in conflict with the interests of the owner(s).

    Even then, I could not have imagined something as corrupt as Fox News being barely more than a decade away. Or the persistent right wing editorial bias of the Dominion once Richard Long took over the helm. I thought they would be more covert than that…..but no….they have no competition in NZ and are free to mislead people however they please. This capacity was used to good effect in securing the election of a party to government in 2008 that has polices which are mostly contrary to the interests of the people who voted for them….but that hardly mettered on the day as very few knew anyting about it.

    I don’t trust the big commercial media in NZ at all. One look at what APN as done to the Listener is all anything thinking person should need to discard “mainstream media” in NZ as a credible source of guidance on certain topics.

    The only media outlet I do have faith in these days in Radio NZ…..and only because their biases, to the extent they exist, aren’t driven by commercial requirements. They tend ot be based on the view and beliefs of he people who work there…and no one group appears to hold sway.

    That can’t be said about most other media in NZ.

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