No ‘one-size fits all’ solution to building trust in news, finds latest Reuters Institute research

There is no ‘quick-fix’ or ‘one-size fits all’ approach to addressing declining levels of trust in news reporting, according to new research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The latest report from the institute casts the spotlight on news audiences’ solutions for rebuilding trust in news and concludes that there are no easy solutions, with mixed opinions on how to best address the issue.

The research is the final report from the institute’s three-year-long Trust in News Project, which has sought to highlight public expectations regarding trustworthy journalism.

It was based upon new survey data across the Global South (Brazil and India) and Global North (the UK and the US) and explores how media outlets can react to declining levels of trust and the varying perceptions in the different countries to these proposed approaches.

The report revealed four areas media outlets could focus on to increase trust in news, through:

  • Editorial strategies – Better positioning topics covered and subjects of news stories to what the public say they want from trusted news outlets
  • Transparency – focusing on communicating ethical standards and newsroom policies while equally lessening conflicts of interest and bias
  • Management – ensuring journalistic independence and ownership structures that public public cynicism as well as improving diversity among newsroom staff
  • Engagement – Taking steps to ensure the public is listened to, involving them in the news production and being receptive to their input.

And the research found that – while there were some commonalities between countries on expectations of news outlets, such as fair, accurate and impartial news – at the same time, disparities exist between audiences on what may increase or undermine trust.

Other key findings include:

  • The least trusting towards news tend to see ‘no differences’ between news outlets
  • Opinions differ greatly on best approaches for news organisations to take to address the issue of trust in news.
  • The most trusting audiences are largely most welcoming to trust-building strategies, whereas winning over the wider public may require convincing people of the value and relevance of news.
  • Audiences in the UK and US were more receptive to editorial strategies for building trust than in Brazil and India.
  • Diversifying newsrooms is largely viewed as important for increasing trust.
  • Media outlets could gain more trust by taking greater steps to listen to and connect with audiences.

The report was written by Dr Sayan Banerjee, Dr Camila Mont’Alverne and Dr Amy Ross Arguedas - Postdoctoral Research Fellows working on the Trust in News Project; Dr Benjamin Toff, leading the Trust in News Project as a Senior Research Fellow at RISJ; Dr Richard Fletcher, Director of Research at the RISJ and a principal investigator of the Trust in News Project; and Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the RISJ.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is dedicated to exploring the future of journalism worldwide.