Do you trust the news? More importantly, do you trust this blog?
Unfortunately, you probably don’t. In fact, a good third of you may well dismiss the legitimacy of this site entirely (if the figures can be believed). The 2016 Australian Digital News Report, part of an international study reaching 26 different countries, explores this increasing lack of trust, and the figures can make for interesting reading.
According to the report, less than half of all Australians believe they can ‘trust most news most of the time’. This places us 15th out of 26 countries, with Finland feeling enthusiastic at 65%, and Greece rather hesitant at 20%.
While the numbers vary, our trust in the media is clearly declining. Audience research over the past 50 odd years, and even the Oxford Dictionary’s ‘Word of the Year‘ for 2016 (post-truth) is testimony to the fact that we no longer believe everything we read.
This, however, might not be such a bad thing. ‘Post-truths’ are not the only issue media consumers are now having to contend with. Without our knowledge, the news – all news – is gradually becoming controlled by an increasingly concentrated number of media powerhouses. A well known example is Rupert Murdoch, who owns about two thirds of Australian newspapers and whose influence extends far beyond our borders, reaching three quarters of earth’s population. This ’empire’ is only one of many such systems of control that are influencing what we hear, read, see, and more often than not what we think.
This power allows an individual or corporation to embed their own values within a publication. When these views are presented in thousands of different media streams, seemingly from different sources, the ability to warp public opinion and instigate social change is extraordinary. The power of the media is not just in how it publishes, but what it publishes. Selective coverage is proving as much of a problem as skewed representations.
So perhaps Greece is onto something. A lack of trust may actually aid in guarding us against the rhetoric of the likes of Murdoch. Indeed the 2016 report outlines a need for the individual to become more ‘media-literate’; to explore the quality and reliability of the news they access. The report confirms that the ‘ongoing testing of news media credibility may be increasingly necessary at a time when the boundaries between ‘news’ and ‘not news’ are blurring and [a] lack of trust… is so clearly evident.’