Traditional media tops social networks in public trust battle: study

It may be so-called digital age, but traditional media is still tops when it comes to public trust and confidence.

According to a new study by the Canadian Media Research Consortium (CMRC), nearly 90 per cent of the 1,682 Canadians surveyed considered information provided by traditional news media  gold-star reliable. Only 25 per cent, on the other hand, considered information found on social networks to be reliable.

True, younger Canadians — those 18-34 years in age — are more likely to give social media props when it comes to reliability, but not by much. Only 33 per cent said they felt information from social networks and/or blogs was reliable, or very reliable.

Even among those who visit social networks daily, only 40 per cent feel the information found there is reliable.

So what does this all mean?

Well, it doesn’t mean that Joe and Jane Public aren’t going online for their news. Actually, according to the study, “online news websites and television sites are the most important sources of information for Canadians.”

So, rather than placing their trust in blogs and social networks, Canadians are trusting the online sites of established publications, or, presumably, online-only news sites. Indeed, online news sites pretty much tie with traditional media in the trust factor battle — 89 per cent and 90 per cent, respectively.

But proponents of traditional news shouldn’t cheer just yet. “Although trust in established news media remains quite high, habitual consumption of news is declining,” reads the study. “The younger generation of online Canadians — those under 35 years of age — is significantly less likely to regard keeping up with the news as an important part of their daily activities.”

For this generation of news consumers, traditional media is just one part of the information mix; they are consulting multiple sources.

Many Canadians, as it turns out, are, however, wishy-washy when it comes to citizen journalism. In response to one question, which asked those surveyed if they would trust non-professional content more if they knew it was edited by a professional, 44 per cent answered they weren’t sure. Just over 35 per said they would trust it more; 19 per cent said they would trust it less.

“It seems that the emerging collaborative model, citizen reports edited by professionals, is not yet widely understood,” reads the report.

What’s more, it adds, many Canadians are also skeptical about “crowd-editing” — user-generated content edited and fact-checked by a collective crowd of web users. Nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed don’t trust the information on wiki-type sites; 25 per cent trust the information.

“It seems clear that the traditional media and their established processes of verification and
editing still inspire public confidence, whether the news and information are delivered online or
offline,” the report concludes. “The traditional media are the gatekeepers of news but, even in the digital age, they remain crucial providers of verification and context.”