The news media industry has gone through a lot of changes in the past 10 to 20 years that have impacted the way news is both produced and consumed. Our researchers discuss the effects of these changes on how Americans trust the news media and assess news and information, including the role of partisanship, misinformation and representation.
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[Intro] Trust in America, in institutions, in each other is essential to the functioning of U.S. democracy. Yet today, trust is declining. So what impact does this have on American society? In this episode, Katerina Eva Matsa and Lee Rainie help explain trust in the news media and how Americans evaluate news sources.
[Lee Rainie] Trust is declining. Our work shows that people are less trustful of major institutions, including the news media, than they used to be. And your team has documented a lot of this broad change that’s occurred.
[Katerina Eva Matsa] The news media as an industry has undertaken a lot of changes. First, the way people get news today has changed from 10 years ago, from 20 years ago. We’ve seen that online news consumption is up, and it’s at this point even more than television. Second is the news media industry’s business model. We’ve seen that many news organizations are now changing their revenue streams, focusing now more on digital ad revenue. The third element has to do with political identity. We see that the Republicans and Democrats place their loyalty and their trust in very different sources. The fourth development is misinformation. The challenges that Americans are facing, parsing through the news online is in this new environment of misinformation, with a large share of Americans saying that made-up news creates confusion and it’s really a big problem for society.
[Lee Rainie] It’s true that social media now has added an extra layer of complexity to the issues that news consumers and news producers are grappling with. And it almost gets back to the very foundational question. We asked, “Do you trust the news media?” And a lot of people answered “no” to that question, But then, to unpack that idea, and Americans are equally comfortable sort of saying, “Yes, I really like, and I really trust some sources but not others.” And so, in a way, their trust has become disaggregated and divided.
[Katerina Eva Matsa] One of the things that we’ve seen is that idea of personal connection with a journalist or a news organization. We see that that matters. When we ask people whether their media represent them, whether the journalists that they talk to are embedded in the community, that’s where we see big differences in how people evaluate the media. People that say that they’ve talked to a journalist or they see themselves in stories, they’re gonna have more positive things evaluations of the news media.
[Lee Rainie] People have lots of news sources that they trust, but they don’t think that the institution of the news media and the industry of news organizations as a whole is trustworthy. So people tend to go to sources of information that map with their point of view. And we see in our data Americans don’t trust each other the way they used to. They don’t think Americans share the same facts that they used to. And so, the charge to people who are in the thick of this new environment is to figure out how to help people find their way to the truth and not make it a hard job. And Americans couldn’t be clearer about that. They want to know what’s going on, and they want help doing it, and they are looking to journalists to help solve these problems.