Mistrust and news fatigue increasing worldwide, Reuters study shows

News avoidance and lack of trust in news producers are increasing around the world, according to Reuters’ latest Digital News Report. In Flanders, 51 per cent of people say they trust the media, compared to 35 per cent in Wallonia. 

The annual study covers 47 news markets and questioned 95,000 people, including 2,000 in Belgium.

“There is a remarkable increase in distrust among left-leaning Flemish people and young people,” says Ike Picone, professor of media and journalism at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. “Transparency, high journalistic standards and representation are crucial for trust in news.”

"In these troubled times, a supply of accurate, independent journalism remains more important than ever"

Readers who pay for news are more satisfied with the media, especially news that provides practical information and encourages civic engagement. However, willingness to pay remains low, especially among people with lower income and education levels. 

“In these troubled times, a supply of accurate, independent journalism remains more important than ever, and yet in many of the countries covered in our survey we find the news media increasingly challenged by rising mis- and disinformation, low trust, attacks by politicians, and an uncertain business environment,” says the report’s lead author, Nic Newman of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

AI concerns

Another important task for the media is to combat news fatigue and lack of interest. Globally, around 39 per cent of people say they sometimes or often avoid the news. The report suggests that publishers may be concentrating too much on keeping up to date with current events and not spending enough time providing different perspectives or reporting stories that can provide cause for optimism.

There is also widespread suspicion among news consumers worldwide about how AI might be used in journalism, especially for “hard” issues such as politics or war. Readers are more comfortable with the use of AI in tasks that support rather than replace journalists, such as transcription and translation. 

Newman: “As publishers rapidly adopt AI, to make their businesses more efficient and to personalise content, our research suggests they need to proceed with caution, as the public generally wants humans in the driving seat at all times.”



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