CHICAGO: Journalists are searching for optimistic human interest stories during the COVID-19 crisis, according to Cision’s latest Global State of the Media report. The research also found decreasing distrust of the media, rising importance of social media algorithms and falling interest in AI.
A big surprise to Cision executives: attacks on journalists as “fake news” aren’t near the top of the list of things that reporters, editors and producers are worried about. Respondents are more concerned about staffing.
“Our team was surprised to see that the ongoing attacks on freedom of the press, along with conversations about ‘fake news,’ weren’t reported as the first-, or even second-biggest challenge that the media is facing this year,” said Sarah Parker, head of content marketing at Cision. “While it’s no surprise that staffing and resources was reported as the top challenge, it was interesting that journalists chose ‘social networks and influencers bypassing traditional media’ as their second-largest challenge this year.”
The report also found that only a slight majority (51%) of journalists consider accuracy in reporting to be more important than revenue, exclusivity or speed to publication.
“I think this data simply highlights the other pressures mounting for the media. The importance of earning strong reach and engagement is incredibly high and usually comes with an article being shared across social media,” added Parker. “Social algorithms, of course, rank factors other than just accuracy. Speed and exclusivity, or hot takes, often find their way to the top. While these priorities are directly at odds with one another, it’s something journalists are having to navigate.”
The results are based on a survey of 3,200 journalists in 15 countries. Cision also conducted a follow-up survey at the end of March to reflect the media environment under the shadow of COVID-19. The report also includes guidance for PR professionals on pitching and building solid media relationships.
Asked how COVID-19-related questions changed the results of the survey, Parker pointed to media relations.
“The most prominent [change] was about pitching. Journalists had to make an unexpected shift, and regardless of their beat, everything is being looked at through the lens of COVID-19,” she said. “With that said, journalists still want what they’ve historically always wanted from PR professionals: concise, personalized pitches. These pitches should include all of the information and resources they’d need to craft a story, as they’re especially under pressure during this pandemic.”
Journalists also don’t seem fazed by attacks on their credibility. Distrust of the media, as perceived by journalists, has steadily declined since 2016, despite the Trump administration’s “fake news” attacks, according to the report. Nearly six in 10 respondents (59%) felt the public lost trust in them this year, down from 63% last year, 71% in 2018 and 91% in 2017.
“This is a true bright spot in our findings this year. Journalists, for the fourth year in a row, see a decline in distrust of the media. It’s possible that constant attacks on the media have actually made more people realize just how valuable a resource it is,” said Parker. “I think this is also a result of living in a climate with factors changing day-to-day.”
This story was updated to correct the number of journalists surveyed by Cision.