August 29, 2012

Reynolds Journalism Institute
The public’s trust in the institution of the press may be fading, and digital platforms have opened the publishing world to anyone with a desire to speak, but it seems professional journalists themselves are not seen as obsolete.

More than 60 percent of U.S. adults say they “prefer news stories produced by professional journalists,” and more than 70 percent agree that “professional journalists play an important role in our society,” according to new survey data from the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Respondents also disagreed with a social-media-centric model (that most news should come through trusted friends) and disagreed that it doesn’t matter who produces the news.

The first two bars in each chart below refer to mobile device users and non-users. More on them later.

The bad news is, the public doesn’t seem happy with how those professional journalists are doing their jobs. Only about 37 percent said they trust the mainstream media.

Trust in mainstream media was higher among women, and among people who get their TV news from major networks like ABC, CBS and NBC. Meanwhile, a majority of those who get news from Fox News distrust “mainstream” media (presumably they think Fox is not part of that cohort).

CNN watchers were the most “ambivalent,” with a plurality of 41 percent stating neither trust nor distrust.

The impact of mobile

This data is the fifth slice released from a large research project primarily focused on the impact of mobile devices on news consumption.

Mobile users had about the same overall levels of confidence in professional journalism and distrust of mainstream media.

It did find, though, that mobile news consumers were twice as likely to prefer CNN to other TV networks — perhaps a reflection of the company’s aggressive and successful embrace of mobile news apps.

Responses were pretty mixed when people were asked whether they expect to get “all” their news from mobile 10 years from now. Their skepticism is probably warranted. Other research has shown mobile users become “digital omnivores” who continue to use other platforms in addition to their phones and tablets.

On the business-model front, the survey showed little promise for moving audiences to paid content instead of the free, ad-supported model. Fewer than a quarter of people, mobile users or not, were willing to pay extra for news without ads.

Survey author Roger Fidler concludes his analysis: “Digital content produced by professional journalists for mobile media devices has perceived value, but charging for access, with or without advertising, will continue to present news organizations with a dilemma for the foreseeable future.”

Earlier: Tablets seem better than smartphones for paid content | Tablet owners read print newspapers, magazines less oftenTablet owners read national, local news more oftenMobile users spend 5x more with social media than with news apps.

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Jeff Sonderman ( is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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