Media—Trust is the currency

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Situationer

M. Ziauddin

While the world remains full of journalists with good intentions, trust in media in most parts of the world is troublingly low. A painful irony considering the mounting evidence that trust will be the crucial factor in the success or survival of the industry.
The World Press Trends 2017 report highlights the dangers of a race to the bottom, chasing clicks and sales with sensational and sometimes hateful reporting. With over half of revenue for the newspapers coming from selling news, either online or in print, and not through advertising, the report finds that improving trust – through accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability – is the key to audiences paying for high quality journalism.
Five Core Principles of Journalism
1. Truth and Accuracy: Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.
2. Independence: Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.
3. Fairness and Impartiality: Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.
4. Humanity: Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.
5. Accountability: A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical. We listen to the concerns of our audience. We may not change what readers write or say but we will always provide remedies when we are unfair.
But what of journalists who work for publishers and broadcasters whose primary raison d’être is not profit but political or social influence, or, in the case of some oligarchs and media moguls, to eventual assume political power themselves?
What advice and support can one give journalists who are working in newsrooms whose owners are driven by self-interest rather than a desire to play a positive role in society by publishing information that empowers the public to make informed decisions about the things affecting their lives and enabling the proper functioning of a democracy?
Trust expert and author of the book Who Can You Trust?Racheal Botsmanhas the answer to the question: “If I was a journalist in a media organisation, I would ask two questions. How are your intentions as a media company aligned with the public? And who is accountable around here when things go wrong?”
Media organisations need to be “much clearer and more upfront about their intentions and where they’re coming from”, she added.
Botsman argues that the trust that we used to place in institutions has been redistributed onto mobile applications like Uber, which enables over 40 million people a week to get into what is essentially a stranger’s car, rather than choosing a regular taxi.
Many of us still wouldn’t but we might trust technology in other ways. Has anyone of us not at some point fallen for an outrageous story published on our Facebook feed by a close friend that fits perfectly with our worldview or plays on our worst fears?
Malicious state actors as well as enterprising teenagersare exposing the ethical loopholes in Google and Facebook’s advertising duopoly to put their falsehoods and propaganda into our social feeds based on scarily detailed profiling.
Investigative journalism is why we know both of those troubling facts.
Most journalists and media do an honest job, but, as studies by the Ethical Journalism Network show, “in times of financial crisis some cut corners and betray their ethical principles. In every country insiders know what is going on, but too often they are reluctant to talk about it openly.”
So, what advice can one give to young journalists buffeted by the head winds of proprietorially entrenched self-interest? Firstly there are always steps they can take to maintain personal independence and integrity, such as the way they deal with sources. Secondly, there are examples of journalists who decided that, rather than to leave their positions because of concerns over conflicts of interested and other ethical issues, they would bide their time and are able to improve transparency, accountability and better editorial standards as they rise through the ranks.
But if journalism as a whole is to regain the trust it has lost with the public and find quality journalism in the parts of the world that need it most, media owners, managers and senior editors who are in their positions today must reflect honestly on whether their organisations are fit to meet this challenge. The situation is too critical for these changes to be put off for another generation to deal with.
At a time when trust in traditional media is perhaps at an all-time low, ironically, it is the crucial factor underpinning radical change and future success in the news industry, according to the just-published World Press Trends 2017 report.Trust is the new currency for success.
The report, published by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers analyses the data collected from annual survey of more than 70 countries, in addition to the insights and data from its global data partners.
Two years ago was a watershed moment in the news media industry when a fundamental shift in the business model took place: reader revenue became the biggest source of revenue for news publishers. This year’s survey re-enforces that trend as 56 percent of newspapers’ overall revenue came from circulation sales(print and digital) in 2016.
And the driving force in that trend toward building loyal audiences with high-quality journalism is no doubt trust, the report finds.
The decline in trust is the biggest risk media faces as an industry, and all efforts must be with the aim of getting it back. Media used to trade in attention. Trust is the new currency. Any decline in trust erodes the foundation of media business: credible, first-rate journalism.
The report is focused on three themes: trust, followed by “from reach to relationships” and “advertising rebooted,” featuring the global and regional data and insights that have come to be expected in the annual report. But this year it features new traffic insights from global data partner Chartbeat.
Here are some of the findings to consider…
· Global digital circulation revenues grew by 28 percent (YoY), and a full 300 percent from 2012- 2016, with the trend expected to continue.
· Reader revenue now makes up about 30 percent of total digital revenue.
· Despite that, total global newspaper revenues fell 2.1 percent in 2016 from a year earlier, and are down 7.8 percent over the last five years.
· Print still makes up the vast majority of that audience revenue, and continues to grow – up by over 3 percent over the past 5 years.
· We estimate that in 2016, print’s share of total revenues was 91.6 percent, down from 95.1 percent in 2012.
· Print advertising revenue continued its decline, 8 percent over the previous period and down 26.8 percent over the past five years.
· Digital advertising grew by 5% from 2015 to 2016, highlighting the ongoing challenge publishers face to generate not just more digital revenues but also new revenue streams to offset print losses.
Despite the increasing focus on reader revenue and the overwhelming domination of digital advertising by Internet giants, publishers have opportunities to carve out more of the ad pie by forming alliances and leveraging their high-quality brand environments.

(Source: Ethical Journalism Network Website)