The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a lack of trust in the media

Posted 23 January 2018

Yesterday global PR agency Edelman revealed the results of its 18th annual Trust Barometer, a trust and credibility survey measuring trust across a number of institutions, sectors and geographies. Media Trust CEO, Su-Mei Thompson shares her thoughts on what the results mean for the media industry and wider society.

The latest Edelman Trust Barometer – unveiled yesterday – makes uncomfortable reading for media organisations with trust in the media at an all-time low. This of course follows years of declining levels of trust in business, the Government and NGOs.

Despite the gloomy headline for media companies, at yesterday’s launch event, Ed Williams, Edelman UK CEO, said he was optimistic about a regaining of trust levels and the green shoots of recovery, albeit delicate, were evident.

Mainstream media consumption

According to the report, half of respondents said they consume mainstream media less than once a week. Six out of ten feel news organisations are more focused on attracting large audiences than reporting the story, breaking news over communicating with accuracy and supporting a political position over informing the public. Nearly one in two see them as elitist.  Two-thirds agree that the average person can’t distinguish good journalism from rumor.

There is widespread concern that the media sector is failing to meet key societal expectations of its role in guarding information quality, educating people on important issues and helping inform good life decisions.

NGOs still have an important voice.

A renewed confidence in ‘experts’

Also putting pressure on trust in media is declining credibility in social and horizontal networks as a source for news, while there has been a renewed confidence in experts, academics and a fast recovering belief in CEOs, rewarded for speaking out on issues. NGOs still have an important voice – coming in just ahead of CEOs. Interestingly, Government officials and regulators were deemed the least credible.

As Edelman points out, the consequences of a loss of belief in reliable information are volatility, societal polarisation and an ebbing of faith in society’s governing structures, slowing economic growth and tempting leaders to make short-sighted policy choices. If silence is now deeply dangerous and a tax on the truth as Edelman puts it, then every institution – not just media players –  has to play its part by educating its constituents and joining the public debate, going direct to the end users of information.

Charities and community groups need to have a stronger voice so the issues and stories they have to tell are not overlooked.

A responsive, responsible, representative media

These findings and the ensuing debate obviously go to the heart of what we do and believe at Media Trust: namely, that a more responsive, responsible, representative and connected media sector is essential for the healthy functioning of society and a more socially cohesive Britain.

Equally that charities and community groups need to have a stronger voice so the issues and stories they have to tell are not overlooked. As Edelman suggests, at a time when government is distrusted and media is no longer perceived to serve as an effective watchdog, both NGOs and businesses have an important role to play in stepping up to provide reliable information about – and solutions for – the issues that people care about.

We will be redoubling our efforts to create greater connectivity between the media and creative sectors and broader society and to ensure charities have a stronger voice.

At Media Trust, we will be redoubling our efforts to create greater connectivity between the media and creative sectors and broader society and to ensure charities have a stronger voice. We will continue to do this by promoting skills-based volunteering by media and creative professionals providing them with the opportunity to walk in the shoes of marginalised communities, encouraging more young talent from diverse, non-traditional backgrounds to join the media and creative industries, and facilitating a constructive dialogue and greater collaboration between stakeholders.

At the same time, we warmly invite your thoughts and suggestions for what else Media Trust can do to help restore trust in the media  – please write to me at su-meit@mediatrust.org. I would love to hear from you.

With very best wishes,

Su-Mei Thompson

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