Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
Journalism, moreover news industry confronted disruptions in its traditional advertisement-dependent business model during post-carona-virus-induced-pandemic New Normal. As a result, subscription for news consumption identified as the alternative mode of revenue. On the otherhand, loss of pubic-faith in journalism resulted in growth of tendency for news-avoidance worldwide. The environment could not prove conducive to ensure financial stability for the news industry.
In the New Normal advertisement spend for goods and services continue to be relocated into search engine, e-commerce and social media platforms. Two hundred year old tradition of news accompanying advertisements has been disappeared or fast disappearing at different geographies. The trend is active in print, radio, television and news website landscapes in an uniform pattern. The changed scenario compels the news industry to present news as a monetization commodity on the market place just like any other goods and services.
The primary strategy for any news platform is to overcome huddles is to build trust and wipeout news-avoidance amongst the public. While these two problems are worrisome, there are many examples of news platforms fighting against, both in the developed and developing nations. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford started a research initiative ‘Trust in News Project’ to study the problem.
‘Trust in news Project’ published its third and final report on survey results and recommendations during September 2023. Two reports appeared earlier in 2021 and 2022. To understand the problem of loss of trust in journalism and efforts by the news organizations to overcome the issue a survey was conducted among about 2000 persons in each of the four countries, United States of America, United Kingdom, India and Brazil during May and June 2023. In India 2,500 persons took part on a face-to-face survey. People speaking Hindi, Assamese, Bangla, Odia, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi and Guajrati took part in the survey.
In the course of working for three years, ‘Trust in News Project’ conducted a number of focused group discussions and evidence-based evaluations on models adopted by news publishers to promote trustworthiness of news among their consumers. The results identified four major areas addressed by the news platforms. Firstly, as the news consumers are increasingly avoiding negative news, publishers and editors should lay emphasis for supply of positive news. However, positive news does not mean highlighting success stories. But to report a problem with possible solutions. In the contemporary journalism ecosystem the trend is named as ‘solutions journalism’.
Secondly, trust in news increases with transparency in reporting. For example, while reporting a news story sufficient background information can be provided ranging from which source the news was procured, what is the credibility of the source and a description about related developments associated with the incident or issue etc. Thirdly, the staff of news platform and its editorial management contribute towards establishing trust among the news consumers. Acceptability is an important factor. For example, just publication of byline of the journalist can convince the news consumers about the competence, rationality and perceptive of the particular journalist through identification .Such a revelation can contribute towards enhancing trustworthiness of the news story.
Fourthly, consumer engagement results in building-up trust in journalism. Various techniques like promoting letter-to-the-editor, open-page, reader’s forums and journalism festivals in print media are popular engagement tools. In the online environment instant comment builds-up an atmosphere of conversation among the journalist and readers. The flagship survey contemplated to measure respondents reactions to these four areas in relation to building trust in journalism.
‘Trust in News Project’ report stated that news consumers worldwide give importance to news coverage to be accurate, impartial and fair. However the nature of accuracy, impartiality and fairness may differ from region to region depending upon social, cultural and political considerations. News consumers expect more transparency and reduction on bias. They preferred news coverage on concerns that impact everyday life. People’s attitude towards building trust in journalism varied not only across nations but within diverse and pluralistic societies. There was no simple solution in sight to build-up trust in journalism.
The report claimed, “while levels of trust in news overall have declined in all four countries, it is often lowest among the subset of the public who use news the least frequently.” It further explained, “editorial strategies for building trust appear to resonate most in the UK and the USA, and somewhat less in Brazil and India.” Decline in trust in news is attributed to factors like spread of digital platforms, politics and growing indifference towards news. The researchers hoped solutions to build trust in news from the research findings may benefit newsrooms across countries.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on September 29, 2023. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-321
It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
Benerjee, Sayan et.al Strategies for building trust in news : What the public say they want across four countries.