Study: Threat of fake news is elevating trust in traditional media

Ogilvy Media Influence's annual global survey of 250-plus reporters and producers has found that journalism across the board is better due to reports of "fake news."

NEW YORK: The recent rise in reports of "fake news" have actually elevated trust in traditional media, according to journalists worldwide.

Ogilvy Media Influence’s annual global survey of 250-plus reporters and producers was conducted via email and phone in April across the North American, EMEA, and Asia Pacific regions.

More than half of those surveyed (52%) find traditional media to be the most trusted news sources, followed by company websites and press releases (22%). Broken down by geography, in North America: Traditional media, 59%; company websites and press releases, 15%; in EMEA: Traditional media, 47%; company websites and press releases, 22%; and in Asia Pacific: Traditional media, 50%; company websites and press releases, 29%.

"Contrary to sentiment that fake news is actually eroding journalism in these legacy media channels, a lot of [traditional media] stories have better reporting, better fact-checking, and better citing of sources," said Jennifer Risi, worldwide chief communications officer at Ogilvy, of the survey’s key findings. "The fake news phenomenon has put a spotlight on news more traditionally, and it has made journalists and editors challenge their reporters and put more parameters in place to ensure the news is accurate."

The study also found the political climate has transformed the way journalists report stories in the past 12 months. In North America, 54% of journalists have altered their reporting methods; in EMEA, 41% of journalists have changed their reporting based on the political climate; and in Asia Pacific, 34% have adjusted their practices.

Globally, journalists believe social media (25%), polarized media coverage (14%), and confirmation bias (14%) have contributed the most to the rise of fake news. Journalists in EMEA (14%) and Asia Pacific (17%) also believe money is a contributing factor to its rise.

In North America, blame for advancing the phenomenon of fake news was pinned on social media by 24%, polarized media coverage by 17%, and confirmation bias by 14% of those surveyed. In EMEA, reporters believe fake news is amplified by social media (24%), polarized media coverage (16%), and money (14%); and in Asia Pacific, reporters attribute the rise of fake news to social media (26%), confirmation bias (17%), and money (17%).

To combat fake news globally, reporters said better reporting (41%) is necessary, along with collaborations with social media platforms (24%) to verify the news.

In North America, 35% said better reporting and 27% said social media platform collaborations are the best response to fake news. In addition, 16% of reporters believe that other practices, such as proper fact checking, credible sources, and transparency, can fight it.

Meanwhile, 43% of EMEA journalists said that better reporting is required, followed by 19% who said collaborations with social media platforms is needed. In addition, 17% believe that marketing campaigns should be launched to promote good reporting practices. And in Asia Pacific, 43% think that better reporting practices are needed in the era of fake news, and 27% of reporters support collaborations with social media platforms.

"Earned media is resilient and remains a cornerstone of modern comms programs," said Risi of what PR pros can take away from this study. "The best mix to drive reputation for a brand today from an earned media perspective is still that mix of traditional, social, and the right content. Now, [PR pros] just have to navigate within the fake news era."

Risi added that PR pros must continue working with reporters and editors to make sure they are vetting sources, fact-checking, and accrediting the right people.

She advised that if brands want to compete in a fake-news environment, they must communicate and build trust with consumers, leveraging the trifecta of traditional, digital, and social media platforms to tell their stories in a way that is authentic and true to their brand.

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