KAMLOOPS — A recent report from the group Cision suggests the public’s trust in the media is continuing to fall. Their 2017 State of the Media report indicates 91 per cent of respondents feel the media is less trusted than it was just three years ago. While 92 per cent of reporters surveyed said being right is more important that being first, there is strong evidence that more journalists are choosing speed over accuracy. No one wants to be second. If there’s a social media post out there that says something interesting, no matter what it may be, it’s being retweeted by journalists before they ever check out the veracity of the post. And if the post is wrong, they blame the original post instead of themselves. They should have checked it out first.
Part of the problem is that the public wants to hear about things instantly. They don’t want to wait to find out if there is a legitimate terrorist attack, or if a young child was hit by a car. As soon as they get wind of something, the media is under pressure to come forward with more information, no matter how accurate it is, or isn’t. And we as journalists fall into that trap so frequently. We buy into the idea it’s better to be first than factual.
It shouldn’t be surprising no one trusts us. We don’t do a very good job building that trust. We’re so busy trying to build followers and get shares and get retweets that we really often don’t think of the quality of what we’re putting out.
The media, once the trusted source of information, has let itself fall into the same role as those “amateur newspeople” out there who will throw out all sorts of information with no factual background whatsoever. And we will continue to lose trust as people like Donald Trump assault the media with their daily tweets of criticism and “fake news”. If we had proof of our credibility, we could counter these charges. But sadly, we are often guilty of those accusations, and we use the expediency of social media to try to get the information out first as opposed to being accurate. We use new restrictions by the police and others as reasons we couldn’t get accurate information. That’s no excuse. We need to do a better job.
If we aren’t first on social media, and the analytics don’t show us in the best light, I don’t really care. What I do care about is getting the right information out. If I do that, the trust will return, and we will get the shares and the retweets because people will know that when they see our material, it will be material they can count on. Not some information tossed out without any substantiation whatsoever. People like Walter Cronkite and Knowlton Nash must be turning over in their graves as they look and see what we’ve become.