Wick Communications

They trust us. Well, sort of.

In Online media on February 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm

You know Craig Newmark. He’s the guy who brought us craigslist.org and a whole lot of headaches with our classified ad sales. He’s also the guy who lets anybody say darn near anything to sell cars, old IKEA furniture and, until recently, even their own bodies. (If you are interested, watch from 2:30 to 3:30 mark here to see Newmark’s incredibly convincing argument for listing prostitutes. Sorry, I mean “adult services.”) So you had good reason to roll your eyes when he wrote on his blog this week:

Folks, as you may know, I’ve been doing a lot of work with good orgs who are doing factchecking work, and voter protection…

Yes, Newmark is interested in making sure the truth is told.

OK, OK, settle down. The truth is that, craigslist’s problems aside, Newmark has long been interested in societal issues. And he appears sincere about helping us all make the news a more transparent and believable product. Here’s his latest enterprise.

As you can see, he commissioned a survey into the way readers perceive the news and there are some interesting takeaways.

Trust: Readers say they trust newspapers more than any other news organizations, but that is hardly anything to write home about. Readers in the survey were nearly four times more likely to believe what they read in newspapers than in blogs or over social media, but three-fourths of them didn’t much trust newspapers either. Clearly, we have an integrity gap. …

Social media: Younger readers were slightly more likely to trust social media sources – Twitter, Facebook and the like – for news, but college graduates were slightly more cynical about the use of social media. This is really interesting: 34 percent of respondents think social media has a detrimental effect on the news; that’s twice as many as say it is beneficial. I’m not sure what the message is for those of us who regularly push our links across the social landscape.

Racial divide? I wouldn’t make too much of this — I’m not sure the sample is large enough to really be meaningful. But the survey suggests that black readers trust the mainstream media more than their white counterparts. That would fly in the face of previous studies that have blamed the lack of minorities in high places at the nation’s media companies (among many other things) for undermining such support. Equally mystifying, the survey suggests that Hispanic readers are more likely to trust social media sources. Hmmm…

For me, the takeaway is that we maintain our position atop the news pyramid. We are more trustworthy simply because we are more trustworthy. We check things out. We don’t rush to publish before we know the truth of the matter. And we’ve been doing it forever. That doesn’t mean we can be complacent. It is just gratifying that people continue to notice the difference.

Clay

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