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RTDNA, Magid Examine Trust Issue in Local News

An RTDNA/Magid study on trust in local news
(Image credit: RTDNA)

Magid and the RTDNA (Radio Television Digital News Association) shared a research project focused on trust in news at RTDNA22 last week. One finding saw that 60% of local news viewers are in Strong Agreement that one journalist can compel people to tune out. 

“For some time now we’ve known the ‘what’ — that public trust in journalism has been eroding, even for local broadcast newsrooms, which, by and large, have always been among the most trusted,” RTDNA president and CEO Dan Shelley said. “Now we know, for the first time, the ‘why,’ and, more important, ‘how’ local journalists can rebuild and retain trust.”

RTDNA is a trade association for news professionals and Magid is a consulting agency. RTDNA/Magid said the project serves as “a roadmap for newsrooms to adopt and follow to maintain and win back trust in their communities.”

Magid surveyed 2,000 adult local news consumers, who were asked to evaluate a series of actions and qualities and rate them from 1 (totally disagree) to 10 (totally agree) on how they impacted trust in local news. Things that averaged Strong Agreement (8-10) include “they are knowledgeable about the local community and what issues are important” (57%); “they are authentic and genuine” (55%); “when they make a mistake or error, they own up to it and apologize” (54%); “they ask tough questions of government officials and politicians” (53%); and “they take the time in their reporting to explain how stories developed and changed over time” (53%). 

“Local news sources and journalists may think they’re already doing many of the things the research finds important. But local news consumers still question whether they can trust the local news and information regardless of what platform they’re using,”  Magid executive VP Bill Hague said. “The path forward is all about taking action in a clear and demonstrative way each and every day, so you can get credit for delivering trusted, high-quality journalism.”

RTDNA and Magid said the survey offers local TV newsrooms a chance to address the charges of “fake news” among some viewers. 

“For years we have seen the research that trust in journalism is declining, but what we need is to hear from audiences on how we can turn the tide and grow trust,” Ellen Crooke, chair of RTDNA’s Working Trust Group, said. “RTDNA commissioned this study in the hope that this information will help local news leaders across America work to change the narrative about journalism. The results show that it is time to be transparent and boldly explain every day how we execute the basic principles of good journalism.” ■

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.