“Because of the flood of information, the flood of influencers and the decline of so-called experts, how do we make decisions around who is trustworthy, who to vote for, what products and services to buy, and what to believe in the world?”
With reports released every week about the world’s declining trust in the media and the epidemic of fake news showing no sign of slowing, it seems like a good time to consider how these trends are impacting the trust we have in each and our society.
News readers aren’t the only ones suffering from this era of distrust: media organisations face the ongoing challenge to their business models, leading to the erosion of journalism and quality content. For journalists and others working in the media, the reputation of the fourth estate dangerously undermined and some labelled as “enemies of the people.”
Rachel Botsman is a business consultant, trust specialist and was a headliner at 2017’s INFORM News Media Summit. Her work in the field of social trust today is a revealing look into what has gone wrong in recent years, and how we can recover.
“It’s the core of a lot of pain and disruption we are facing in the world, and it comes down to the decisions we make,” Botsman said, speaking to AdNews.
“Because of the flood of information, the flood of influencers and the decline of so-called experts, how do we make decisions around who is trustworthy, who to vote for, what products and services to buy, and what to believe in the world? My theory is that it gives rise to different voices, often voices that tap into feelings of fear, fatigue and anger versus people who really speak to fact. Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton and Brexit are the example of that playing out,”
“Fear and cynicism are a threat and the media can amplify that or correct that. If we’re not going back to these institutions of trust, what is the role of media in an untrustworthy world?”
Botsman’s emphasis on the role of the media to help challenge the “enemy of the people” rhetoric warrants consideration. But how can media organisations regain the trust and confidence of the public?
She emphasises the need for media brands to avoid using social media and digital media forms as scapegoats. Instead, she encourages a focus on “becoming a media brand that people value.”
She cites global and US brands like The New York Times, the New Yorker, The Economist and Wired that are brands built around thinking and fact versus opinion and content.
Her other piece of advice is to resist funding models for news organisations: “The problem comes back to the economic model [behind media] and the financing of the industry and people not paying for content. The problem is 15-20 years old, but the business model of media has never been fixed.”
Watch her presentation at the 2017 INFORM Summit: