News publishers have played a stellar role in helping the world navigate through an extraordinarily complex and scary pandemic. “In almost all countries, news organisations are the single most widely used source of information about coronavirus,” states a new report by Reuters. “Furthermore, news organisations have become even more central to how people stay informed about coronavirus in the last year.”
Nearly 50% people trust news organisations for Covid-19 information
The report, “An Ongoing Infodemic: How People in Eight Countries Access and Rate News and Information about Coronavirus a Year into the Pandemic,” is based on surveys conducted in April 2021. The researchers documented and analysed how people in Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the UK, and the US accessed news and information about COVID-19 more than a year into the pandemic. The report shares findings on how people rate the trustworthiness of the different sources and platforms they rely on, how much misinformation they say they encounter, and how they see vaccines.
About half of the respondents across the countries surveyed rate news organisations as relatively trustworthy sources of COVID-19 information.
“Trust in news organisations for news about coronavirus is generally higher than people’s trust in news overall,” the authors note, “which may reflect something about how news organisations approach it as a topic.”
A little over 50% of the respondents also say that the news media have helped them understand the pandemic, and explained what they can do in response.
“Weathered the storm better than governments”
A year down, the number of people looking for coronavirus information has declined overall as fatigue has set in. However, the reliance on news organisations has declined less than other popular sources like national government or health organisations.
“In this sense, news organisations have become even more central to how people stay informed about coronavirus as other sources have waned in importance,” the authors explain.
The same holds true for trust levels. It has declined with respect to news organisations and national governments in the last 12 months. However, news outlets have “weathered the storm better than governments,” having seen a decline of 8 percentage points compared to the 13 percentage points slide seen by governments.
There is much less trust on the popular digital platforms as sources of news. The trust gap between information from news organisations and information from social media is on average 25 percentage points; between news and video sites 22 percentage points; and between news and messaging applications 28 percentage points.
Political actors are commonly seen as the top source of COVID-19 related misinformation followed by social media. On average, 35% of respondents say they think they have seen a great deal of false or misleading information from individual politicians in the past week. 27% say the same about their national government. 30% point towards social media and about a quarter think the same about news organisations.
“Consistently associated with knowing more about the coronavirus”
The one significant finding that is consistent across all countries, according to the authors, is “using news organisations as a source for news and information about coronavirus decreases the rate by which people believe in coronavirus vaccine misinformation in all countries studied.” It is consistent with last year’s finding that reliance on news organisations in most countries was associated with higher levels of knowledge about coronavirus.
“Overall, our 2021 data and analysis and our opportunity to compare between 2020 and 2021 in six countries,” the authors conclude, “document that news organisations on the whole are playing a central and important role in helping people navigate the crisis.”
Reach has declined, but news organisations have, in fact, become relatively more important as other sources’ reach has declined more.An Ongoing Infodemic: Reuters Institute report
The full report is available at Reuters Institute:
An Ongoing Infodemic: How People in Eight Countries Access and Rate News and Information about Coronavirus a Year into the Pandemic