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Plus Report - By Thomas Baekdal - December 2019

A guide for how publishers can truly build trusted journalism

In the media industry, we have long faced what we call a crisis in trust. Just recently, over at Reuters Institute we could read "Journalism is under attack. Here's how it must fight back". And in this, it talks about trust:

The big battle for journalism is to persuade people to spend time with the news and to help pay for it. This won't happen if they don't trust us.

Our Digital News Report, which tracks patterns of media consumption in 38 different countries, shows that only 42 percent of digital news users trust news worldwide, down 2 percentage points from last year. Less than half (49 percent) trust the news they use themselves.

In some countries, this fall in trust has been precipitous, and has accompanied a rising mistrust in all institutions. In France, the Yellow Vests movement pushed trust in media down 11 percentage points to 24 percent. In the UK trust in news overall is at 40 percent, but people do at least have a bit more faith in the news they choose to consume, with 51 percent saying they trust the news they use.

However, the problem with lack of trust is not because of a single factor. Instead, it's the cumulative effect of many different problems, that combined have lost us our trustworthy status.

We can always point fingers at external factors, and yes, there are those too, but most of the problems are actually internal. It's caused by things that we do, or fail to do, as publishers.

So in this 39-page report, we are going to talk about trust, and what steps and considerations publishers need to make in order to truly become the trustworthy sources that we all need to be. And in this report, I'm going to focus on the things that we should do ourselves.

The short version, however, is that journalism has one critical role, which can be defined like this:

When the world is a mess, journalism should be the place people can turn to.

You don't earn trust, you lose it!

To start this, we need to first fix the misconceptions that people have around trust.

First of all, one of the biggest misconceptions is when people say that trust is something you earn. This is fundamentally not true. Trust is not earned. It's lost.

Let me explain why.

Imagine for a moment that you are looking to buy a new computer, and you come across this review by Sara Dietschy.


This is a nice video, and Sara seems to know what she is talking about, and because of this, your brain automatically decides that she can be trusted.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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