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Media (R)evolutions: Audiences trust established news brands more than new brands or journalists

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

News audiences typically trust institutions more than individuals. It is the news brand — its heritage, values, and journalistic standards — that people identify with, not the celebrity journalists or talking heads, according to the Reuters Digital News Report 2016 that surveyed over 50,000 online news consumers in 26 countries.

Who is this anonymous source? Did somebody pay the outlet to run this story? Can I trust the journalist to give me an unbiased report? These questions remain pertinent for contemporary news consumers, and the Digital News Report suggests that trust in the news is more strongly tied to trust in specific news brands than any other factor. In all 26 countries, trust in news organizations was the most important driver of overall trust, and was significantly more important than trust in journalists or freedom from undue governmental influence.  This perhaps signals that news audiences are weary of citizen journalism, blogs, and other forms of news that have not been vetted and, therefore, cannot be readily screened for bias.

However, an important point, often made by participants in the follow-up focus groups, was that trust in news brands takes a long time to build. Some news brands – typically those that have been around a long time – are often seen as main sources of news, and new outlets, even if they have a large reach, are considered secondary sources.


Overall, there was a great deal of variation in the extent to which news is trusted across the 26 countries. Wealthy Western European and Scandinavian countries that have a mixture of strong, well-funded public service broadcasters and commercial media scored highly. In contrast, trust was lower in Southern European countries and the United States. In Greece, just one in five (20%) said that they trust the news, the lowest in 2016.

In Greece, the economic crisis contributed to a loss of faith in institutions in general, including news organizations. Trust is also affected by perceptions of political influence. In countries like Turkey where the government has clamped down on opposition newspapers, trust is lower.  In Hungary where media are highly politicized, only 14% of our Hungarian respondents agreed that the media were independent from undue political or government influence most of the time, compared with an EU weighted average of 29%.

Business and commercial influence over the news was considered to be strong in Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Korea, and the United States.

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