The news industry needs to be less arrogant, more transparent and more digitally native if it wants to increase trust in UK journalism, a panel of leading journalists, including Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Ros Atkins, has said.
The comments were made at an event celebrating the launch of the latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report, which found that almost half (46%) of British people actively avoid reading the news at times while just 34% said they trusted most news output.
- July 1, 2022
- June 29, 2022
- June 29, 2022
That number marked a significant decline in trust from the 51% figure reported in 2015.
Reuters Institute director Rasmus Kleis Nielsen opened the panel, which also included Mirror editor Alison Phillips and Reuters editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni, by warning that the decline in trust risked seeing news something consumed by an increasingly elite few.
“While many of the commercially successful news media are doing well by primarily serving audiences that are crudely put, like me, affluent, highly educated, privileged, in many countries, white, male and middle-aged, or older. Questions, I think, continue to mount around the connection between journalism and much of the public,” he said.
Why has public trust in journalism fallen?
Among the main reasons listed for why people were avoiding news were the impact it was having on mental health, fatigue at excessive Covid and political coverage and concerns about being powerless to combat any of the problems exposed.
Mirror editor Alison Phillips said: “We look at that in a range of ways. The first thing is by explaining what’s going on really clearly. Because once you understand something, it’s slightly less bewildering and slightly less depressing.”
The report found that The Mirror, alongside The Mail and The Sun, were the three least trusted news brands in the UK, while the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 were rated top.
Asked about trust at the state broadcaster, the BBC’s Ros Atkins said: “My main approach to the work we’re doing at the BBC at the moment is to not assume anyone’s going to watch and not assume anyone’s going to trust me… I place evidence alongside every assertion that I make.”
He added: “I think first of all though, you have to accept that [changes] need to be done. I go to quite a few journalism events where journalists seem reasonably fed up that we’re not all being celebrated as being fantastic. Our great value is very obvious to us, it’s just no one else has picked up on that yet. I think we need to drop that and understand that a lot of people don’t see the value in what we’re doing.”
He went on: “People will be on social media or different digital environments because they’re looking for a whole bunch of different things. They’re not necessarily there for news.
“And for me, I need to make journalism that works in that environment as well. If you look at the stuff we’ve had going over the last few years, I’ve largely stripped out all the language of TV news out of it.”
Are opinions behind the lack of trust?
Guru-Murthy, who was recently promoted to become Channel 4 News’ main anchor after the retirement of Jon Snow, told the event the channel had seen its audience grow year on year both in size and share.
He added that the fact broadcasters governed by impartiality rules dominated the top positions for trust in journalism in the UK showed that opinion-free news was still popular with audiences.
“What it tells you is that people don’t want shouty opinion… There’s a great myth that this is the future of news. Look at the American trust scores. They are basically flat from 2015 on because trust is on the floor in America because all they get is shouty opinionated news,” he said.
The US was one of the few countries in the report that reported lower media trust scores than the UK, with just 26% of people polled there trusting most news output.
“One of my criticisms of news at the moment, and really, since the pandemic is that we’ve become single-story news [outlets]. You know, we’ve been obsessed with great detail and depth,” he added. “And perhaps this is one of the reasons why people say they avoid the news as well, because it is just Covid, just Partygate, just Ukraine and it was before that, just Brexit.”
He went on: “In my mind, actually, we’ve lost quite a lot of the variety and diversity in news stories. And that’s partly also a result of resources going out of high-quality news, where we simply can’t afford to send as many people around the world to tell different stories today.”
Pictures: BBC, Channel 4, Reach