ARTICLE: Direct personal experience predicts trust in news the most

Picture: Owl by Massimo Mancini, license CC0

What happens to trust in media when individuals are present at the site of the event, and can evaluate the reports based on their own experiences? Oren Livio and Jonathan Cohen of the University of Haifa conducted an online survey to 405 Israeli adults asking about various predictors of public trust in journalism.

The strongest predictor of public trust is direct personal experience, the study reports. It is the only one that remained significant when all other factors were controlled. Generally, trust in journalists was found to be in small decline, as the results were compared to a previous survey from 2007. Still, journalism remains respected and important from public’s point of view. “The most critical responses appear to be targeted at the perceived failures of journalists rather than at the institution itself”, the authors state.

Analysing evaluations of audience members is not foolproof, the authors remind. People tend to perceive and interpret information selectively in a way that fits their own personal opinions.

Assessments of the quality of news seem to explain the declining levels of trust, more than audience attributes, the study concludes. Personal experiences may have significant long-term effects on levels of trust towards institutions such as the media. This can be problematic from a view of democracy. At the same time, this problem challenges media professionals to improve their work and to regain the trust.

The article “‘Fool me once, shame on you’: Direct personal experience and media trust” was published in Journalism and is available online (free abstract).

Picture: Owl by Massimo Mancini, license CC0

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