Newmark study finds newspapers most trusted news source

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark commissioned a survey of Americans’ trust of news sources. The Washington, D.C.-based polling firm Lincoln Park Strategies conducted the research, which interviewed 1,001 people over the telephone (landlines and cell phones were called). Among the findings:

  • Newspapers are the most trusted source of news for most respondents, but that’s not exactly something to crow about: Only 22 percent overall called newspapers “very credible” for reporting on politics and elections. Interesting: Nearly a third of black respondents trusted newspapers highly, while only 22 percent of whites did. (See below for a breakdown.* Results from Native Americans and people of Asian origin, a not statistically significant group in this survey, are not included in the above-linked infographic.) Cable and networks news are a close second with 21% saying they are very credible. (A Gallup poll last fall found 55% of Americans distrust the media generally.)
  • 34 percent of all respondents thought social media had a “negative effect” on the quality of news; 17% thought it had a positive effect.
  • Only 6 percent of respondents said being first to report a story was very important to them in choosing a news source, a finding that supports caution in reporting breaking news that before it’s confirmed. Twenty-three percent said they prized “in-depth analysis,” and 49 percent said trustworthiness is most important. I’m not clear on how they assessed that quality.

Newmark digs in on the latter point in a press release. “It’s called factchecking, and there are a lot of good people working on it. …They’re looking at ways to help the news media hold candidates and other public figures accountable for what they tell the public. So far it’s hard, and it’s not inexpensive, but it’s really important.”

Some newspaper managers may involuntarily cough up a little blood at an admonition to invest in fact-checking from a guy whose service has contributed to plunging bottom lines industry-wide, but Newmark’s passion for accuracy has led him to organize a conference about fact-checking, he’s involved with a number of likeminded journalistic institutions (including PolitiFact, the franchised fact-checking outfit that is operated by Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times), and he’s said that this issue “is the biggest thing I might help with in my life.”

*Theorize in the comments about the political, race, gender and age differences in the news sources we trust.

These results show that a higher percentage of black respondents find every form of media credible than white or hispanic respondents. A higher percentage of young adults — ages 18-35 — find newspapers “very credible” than any other age group; They are also more likely to find Internet news sites and network news “very credible” than older respondents. And a higher percentage of women find cable and network news more credible than men, more of whom — by a small margin — find talk radio credible than women do.

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  • Poynter

     I don’t see detailed methodology, but there’s a bit more information about the research here: If you post a comment there, they may be able to provide you with additional specifics. –Julie

  • Anonymous

    Question: Where can we find the methodology details–for example, as prescribed by the AP Stylebook)? It’s hard to determine how meaningful these numbers are without knowing the margin of error, etc. If that information is out there, I couldn’t find it. Does anyone have a map?

    Comment: I notice that talk radio is the only media format Republicans trust more than Democrats do. There might be some conversations worth having about possible causes or effects of that difference. Of course, because we don’t know the margin or error, etc., I don’t know if this is even statistically significant. But when lined up on the graph, it does seem to point to a general trend or tendency.

  • Poynter

    That’s a good question, Bob. You’d need to ask them. It was not included in the report they published. –Julie

  • Anonymous

    Did they really not include local TV news … or is it just missing from this report?  Surely it wouldn’t have been left or — or its omission not noted.

  • William P. Davis – BDN

    I don’t buy the numbers around who reported a story first. Readers might not be conscious about the fact that it affects what they read, but it does, especially for readers that come from search and social media. Accuracy is obviously extremely important, but this study shouldn’t be taken as a vindication of print-first, nonagile workflows, it should be a wakeup call for lazy reporters and editors. And let us not forget that the tenor surrounding media has changed in the last 10 years especially to be very negative. I’d like to see how the trust numbers have changed over time — I know from reviewing Bangor Daily News archives that the quality of our reporting has only gone up since the ’80s.