Americans have definite views about news and who we rely on to deliver it. As a broadcast journalist who anchored news and sports programs for forty years, I know how important it is to act with integrity and show respect for viewers and listeners. They are quite particular about whom they invite into their homes each day through television or radio, and wise journalists take that relationship seriously if they want to last in the news business.
During my career, including 25 years reporting and delivering news on Oklahoma’s statewide public television network, I knew I was being judged by how I conducted myself every day and whether viewers trusted the news and information we presented. Trust takes much effort to build and can quickly be lost.
A recent study by the Media Insight Project, a partnership of The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute, bears this out. It shows news consumers – the people who watch news on TV, listen to it on the radio or read it in newspapers or online – pay more attention to news from organizations they trust.
The report focuses on traditional media journalism, but contains lessons each of us can learn to become more trusted – and more valued – communicators. The study shows dedication to these five principles will increase trustworthiness:
Eighty-five percent of adults say accuracy is a critical reason they trust a news source. Getting the story right is the most important factor in gaining trust, regardless of the topic. Providing in-depth information and reliable data increases perceptions of accuracy.
Consumers want their news fast…and complete. Seventy-six percent said having the latest details is critical. Organizations that are quick to answer key questions and deliver important details are seen as more trustworthy.
Familiarity and openness in reporting methods increases communicator’s trust scores. News consumers are more likely to trust reporters and news outlets they know. Explaining how information was gathered and reported boosts confidence in reporters and builds trust.
News consumers appreciate diverse viewpoints presented fairly. They also want to see stories about people like themselves. Finding the right balance of delivering content they can relate to while exposing them to other ideas shows the communicator respects them and appreciates fair play. Most people like that.
Overall, the research shows presentation ranks lower than other key trust factors, but Americans definitely want information that is easily understood. Seventy-two percent said it is very important news be concise and to the point while 67 percent say in-depth coverage is extremely or very important. Entertainment and convenience also improve the level of trust in presentation. Increasingly, ease of navigation on a website or app matters to digital users who want to be able to multi-task while they take in news content.