By Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic has fueled the hunger for reliable news at a time of global crisis, and a large majority of people want media outlets to be impartial and objective, said the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism .
Confidence in the news grew during the pandemic, especially in Western Europe, helping brands with a reputation for reliable reporting, though the distrust was particularly apparent in the polarized US media.
A vast majority of people across all countries believe the media should reflect a variety of views and try to be neutral, the institute said in its annual report (https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk// digital-news-report/2021).
“We’ve been through a very dark period and a large part of the public recognizes that news organizations are often responsible for the light in this darkness,” said Rasmus Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute.
“There has been a greater appreciation of reliable news in general,” he told Reuters. “It’s very clear from our survey, country by country, age by age group, that the vast majority want journalism to try to be neutral.”
The report is based on surveys covering 46 markets and more than half of the world’s population.
The fast-paced technological revolution means that 73% of people now access news through a smartphone, up from 69% in 2020, while many use social media or messaging apps to consume or discuss news. TikTok now reaches 24% of people under 35, with higher penetration rates in Asia and Latin America.
Facebook is seen as the main avenue for disseminating false information, although messaging apps such as WhatsApp also play an important role in this case.
But the tech giants also served as an avenue for dissent, the Reuters Institute said, citing protests in Peru, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and the United States.
More people distrusted the news than did in the United States, where Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election reduced demand for news.
Generally speaking, the people who felt that the media was unfair were those with a political view slanted to the right. Young people aged 18 to 24, blacks and Hispanic Americans, East Germans and certain British socioeconomic classes felt they were being portrayed unfairly.
“Although impartial or objective journalism is increasingly questioned by some, in general people strongly support the ideal of impartial news,” wrote Craig T. Robertson, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute, in the report. “People want the right to decide for themselves.”
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is an Oxford University research center that tracks media trends. The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Thomson Reuters, funds the institute.
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