July 27, 2017

Seventy percent of respondents to a new survey conducted by 28 newsrooms said they financially support one or more news organization, according to a new report from the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Trusting News Project.

In February and March of this year, 28 newsrooms asked their audiences about news organizations they trust, those they distrust and whether they pay for news. The results, which included responses from a broad cross-section of news organizations, were published today.

Newsrooms that participated cut across a variety of media: Print (The Dallas Morning News, The Kansas City Star, USA Today, The Coloradoan), radio (KUT, St. Louis Public Radio), TV (NBC) and digital publishing (The Evergrey). They collected 8,728 responses for the online survey which, as the study explains, “sought to gain a better understanding of some of the major questions journalists face today. In particular, the current investigation seeks to better understand what user-level characteristics predict feelings of trust in mainstream journalism and actions of financial support toward news organizations.”

The other results aren’t that surprising: Liberals and moderates had more trust in “mainstream journalism” than conservatives and people who identified as “very liberal.” “Very conservative” people had the least trust in the mainstream media.

From Trusting News Project Report 2017

From Trusting News Project Report 2017

From Trusting News Project Report 2017

From Trusting News Project Report 2017

And there were differences between races, sexes and ages in how each group views the mainstream media.

The survey also asked people to name three news sources they trust and three they don’t. The top 10 least trusted: Occupy Democrats, BuzzFeed, Breitbart, “Social Media,” “Trump,” Infowars, Yahoo, “Internet,” HuffPost and The Blaze. Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN also all fell in the untrusted category.

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The top 10 most trusted: The Economist, public television, Reuters, BBC, NPR, PBS, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and The Dallas Morning News. “Local,” The Kansas City Star, The Denver Post and The New York Times also made the trusted list.

“It’s important to remember that those responses were open-ended,” said Joy Mayer, an engagement strategist and adjunct faculty member at Poynter, in an email. “People weren’t given a list of news brands and asked to rate them. We asked for top and bottom three. So a brand was only represented if it was in someone’s top or bottom three. A bunch of people mentioned that they didn’t trust Breitbart, for example, or The Huffington Post. Not nearly as many people listed those sites as in their top three most trusted sources. It doesn’t mean no one trusts them — just that they weren’t top of mind for most trusted.”

A 2016 poll by Gallup found trust in the media at an all-time low. A May 2017 study from the Pew Research Center found that stark partisan divisions in how people view the role of journalism as watchdogs. Journalist Sara Catania created a weekly newsletter about restoring trust in journalism.

The partner newsrooms from the survey sat down with 81 news consumers for an hour each to dig more into the findings, Mayer said. The goal of the work, she said, is to create ways for the industry to re-establish trust with the public. You can sign up to participate here and help test the best strategies to do that.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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