by Roger Pynn
When I first read this article about research conducted by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, I wanted someone to slap me awake. “Could this really require research?” I asked.
The study concludes that Americans who find “news” online, it is not the organization that creates the news, but who shares it via social media that determines how much they trust the information. In other words, if your beloved Aunt Jane (the one the family calls “Saint Jane”) shares an article on Facebook, you are far more likely to believe it because she shared it than whether it came from a highly recognized news organization like, for instance, the Associated Press.
As I read the story a second time, my attitude changed to “isn’t it a darned shame that news outlets lost sight of the basics of human trust?”
I’m like everyone else … concerned over the unraveling of American news media (I’ll not worry about media in Russia). It goes way beyond the shrinking number of classically trained journalists, the shuttering of some fine papers and magazines, and certainly, the striking lack of editing or adherence to basic principles that used to restrict opinion creep. I’m worried about the apparent inability of most people to recognize the difference between news and commentary – and that includes a lot of people who claim to be journalists.
This single comment left me reeling:
“All of this suggests that a news organization’s credibility both as a brand and for individual stories is significantly affected by what kinds of people are sharing it on social media sites such as Facebook. The sharers act as unofficial ambassadors for the brand, and the sharers’ credibility can influence readers’ opinions about the reporting source.”
Of course! For Pete’s sake, are you going to accept something your most trusted friend tells you? Even if it is published by some outlet you’ve never heard of? You’ve probably never heard of the American Press Institute before, but if you’re reading our blog it is most likely because we have a relationship and you’re therefore likely to believe I wouldn’t share something with you if it was not reliable information.
All this boils down to the colossal failure of media organizations to earn trust. It isn’t just because the President of the United States is cutting them up like paper dolls. He’s simply capitalizing on their failure to create a relationship. Facebook gets you to like someone. Do you ever wonder whether your newspaper cares if you like them?