Friday, July 05, 2024

Journalists may be wrong about why the American public has less trust in their reporting, new research finds

Profits, not biased storytelling, may be why Americans'
trust in the news is wavering. (Adobe Stock photo)
Many journalists think the American public does not trust the news because of perceived political biases in coverage. A new study suggests that view may be wrong, writes lead researcher Jacob L. Nelson for The Conversation, a journalistic platform for academics. "We found that people’s distrust of journalism does not stem from fears of ideological brainwashing. Instead, it stems from assumptions that the news industry as a whole values profits above truth or public service."

Study researchers conducted 34 Zoom-based interviews with adults representing a cross-section of age, political leaning, socioeconomic status and gender and discovered that money, not slanted information was the source of their distrust. Nelson explains, "The Americans we interviewed believe that news organizations report the news inaccurately not because they want to persuade their audiences to support specific political ideologies, candidates or causes, but rather because they simply want to generate larger audiences — and therefore larger profits."

It's easy to understand how the public might come to their conclusions. "The people we spoke with tended to assume that news organizations made money primarily through advertising instead of also from subscribers," Nelson writes. "Consequently, many of the people interviewed described journalists as being enlisted in an ongoing, never-ending struggle to capture public attention in an incredibly crowded media environment."

Even when interviewees believed that news organizations' support came from their audiences through subscriptions or donations instead of advertisers, "they still described deep distrust toward the news that stemmed from concerns about the news industry’s commercial interests," Nelson explains. "In light of these findings, it appears that journalists’ concerns that they must defend themselves against accusations of ideological bias might be misplaced."

If financial bias is a common root of journalistic distrust, "it might be more beneficial for newsroom managers to shift their energies to pushing back against perceptions of economic bias," Nelson adds. "The people we interviewed also often appeared to conflate television news with other forms of news production, such as print, digital and radio. And there is ample evidence that television news managers do indeed appear to privilege profits over journalistic integrity."

No comments: