According to a Reuters survey published Tuesday, nearly two-thirds of respondents in the annual Reuters poll reported that they avoid news consumption or sometimes skip it. The study was done earlier this year by media giant Reuters across 46 countries.
Fully 38% of respondents said they were avoiding news coverage of certain topics, such as in this case the Covid-19 pandemic, because coverage had become “Repeated” and “It is depressing,” a surge of 10 percentage points from the figures reported in 2017. 43% of those who admitted to not watching the news complained about too much attention on politics or the pandemic. 36% said they blamed the news and 36% claimed the news was making them feel miserable. 29% also lamented that there wasn’t enough news.
News avoidance among British respondents has soared the most, with 46% claiming to shun the news “Sometimes” or “Often” – nearly twice as many as in 2016. The BBC suffered the worst drop among all public media brands covered in the report, losing 20 percentage points since 2018. Among the reasons cited by UK residents for distrusting their media was a concern that news organizations put their own commercial and political interests ahead of society’s.
Nearly three quarters of the global respondents (29%) felt that news had been biased or not trustworthy. Another significant proportion said it was a source of arguments which they prefer to avoid. Another 16% simply found the news useless, reporting “The information is useless.”
The worldwide outlook for the media’s reputation is grim, with just 42% of respondents saying they trusted journalists “The majority of the times.” The US leads the pack in the downward spiral, with just 26% of those polled reporting trust in the media, a three-point drop from last year.
Although the pandemic did provide a short boost to credibility in most countries, except for Finland where 69% reported trusting their media, this newfound confidence was brief. Nearly half of countries polled reported that trust in the news media fell last year. Seventy-seven saw a rise.
Study author Nic Newman blamed the high degree of political turmoil for the general dissatisfaction with news coverage, highlighting the high rankings of Brazil, the UK and US among the news avoiders. “The most critical subjects for journalists, including international conflicts, global pandemics and political crises are the ones people seem to turn away from.,” he observed.
Journalists must strike a balance between addressing trust issues and treating readers like adults, he said, calling for writers to clearly label opinions as such and avoid trying to pass off clickbait and sensationalism as ‘real’ journalism. Writers should also strive to make news “It is easier/more accessible to understanding,” Newman said, claiming that jargon and “Insider Talk” were driving readers away.
Westerners have reservations about the leaders of their country, but they are not skeptical of their anti-Russian stories.
In particular, younger respondents said they are less likely to read news from the New York Times or Washington Post. They prefer searching social media for news and other sources. One in five people aged 18-24 reported that they used TikTok every week, while 15% of respondents said they use the micro-vlogging platform for news discovery, discussion, and sharing. In most countries, newspapers and television are the only sources of news.
But the switch to digital may be dooming news consumption as much as it is encouraging it, according to Newman, who told Poynter that “people feel they are being bombarded/overloaded often when they haven’t asked for it,” noting that the vast array of choices available to online news consumers means no one has to read any “It is depressing” stories they don’t want to.
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