Local news is among the most trusted information sources - and this is why

Trust in local newspapers is rising, according to a recent study, while Facebook and Twitter are said to be increasingly eyed with suspicion as news sources.

Trust in local newspapers in undergoing a resurgence for a variety of reasons, explains Jo Allison
Trust in local newspapers in undergoing a resurgence for a variety of reasons, explains Jo Allison

74 per cent of people in the UK are said to trust the news and information in their local newspaper (whether online or in print), compared to just 22 per cent who trust news on social media.

These results are inline with findings from the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, which recorded a six-year high for trust in 'traditional media'. 

Fact checking and subbing processes, along with long-established media standards and practices, have historically given newspapers a higher level of credibility.

Whereas the activities of some national papers (and the subsequent public inquiry) rocked trust of mainstream press around the turn of the decade, most people were able to separate the actions of some tabloid journalists from those of their local media.

One of the primary reasons local news stands apart is that it’s often perceived as having higher levels of relatability and accountability.

Proximity also plays a part. A local paper can have a tangible presence in people's’ daily lives.

Readers, especially those that take an active role in local issues, are likely to have met a reporter, they’re likely to have walked past the newspaper’s office on occasion and as a result they’re likely to have made a different sort of connection to the medium.

It’s also often easier for readers to engage with writers, which is important in the social media world of today.

The comment sections of local news stories are amongst the most active anywhere and testament to the importance people place on having their say and engaging with others.

Local media has problems of its own of course.

The total number of journalists working on local newspapers is believed to have at least halved since 2005.

With shrinking resources, survival alone is far from guaranteed for many titles, which continue to struggle in a world where so much content is free.

As dailies become weeklies, and some fade out of existence altogether, it would be easy to dismiss local news as ‘dying’, but it’s perhaps better to think of it as evolving.

To complement the remaining ‘old guard’ (journalists and writer mainstays that add continuity and credibility to local editorial teams) there has been an influx of younger reporters taking up responsibilities that may have previously been beyond their years.

Rightly or wrongly, these young local news reporters often have higher levels of autonomy as to what they cover and how, than their predecessors had.

Many have grown up with social media and sharing, promoting and discussing their stories across platforms comes as second nature.

This young talent, often hired and promoted through necessity, may just be evolving local news into what it needs to be to survive and thrive.

This is key, especially now; Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that local news sources would be showing-up more in Facebook News Feeds. Young and hungry local editorial teams are well placed to capitalise.

All of this is happening against a backdrop of renewed appreciation of local news in general, thanks to many feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scope of international problems.

Local news can be seen as closer, more relatable and more accountable.

Jo Allison is a behavioural expert at Canvas8

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