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Journalism is nothing without trust, and recent research shows it takes a long time to build but can be broken in an instant.

Editor's note: Engagement Strategist and 2010-2011 RJI Fellow Joy Mayer and a team of college students have been interviewing journalists and nonjournalists to get a sense of what creates trust and credibility between communicator and receiver. 

When news of the disappearance of Egypt Air flight 804 began circulating last week, many journalists went into “autopilot”. That was the assessment of James Warren, writing at the Poynter Institute

A series of recent reports highlights how this kind of speculation, passing on unverified information and sharing outright misinformation can erode trust between communities and newsrooms. Journalists who work on social media, cover breaking news or who are using eyewitness media, have to understand how trust is built and broken. A number of new studies highlight the unique contours of trust in online journalism and social media.

At a macro level, trust in media is already at dismally low levels. But recent research has begun to delve more deeply into those numbers to more fully understand how trust functions. Trust is the foundation on which journalism is built. There is no use in reporting if your journalism won’t be believed. But, in a new study released in April, the American Press Institute points out that there are financial implications for newsrooms as well.

“Americans who place the greatest emphasis on trust factors are most likely to pay, share or follow that source,” the authors write. “News organizations that earn trust have an advantage in earning money and growing their audience.”

Social media, trust and skepticism

The study, which was a partnership between the American Press Institute’s Media Insight Project and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, attempted to break trust down into “specific factors” that strengthen or erode trust and looked at new elements of trust that are unique to digital media. It included one section related to how people get news from social media and how trust is established and betrayed on those platforms.

Read the full article.



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