Survey: More rely on news organisations for coronavirus info

When it comes to information about Covid-19, more people are relying on news organisations which are deemed to be more trustworthy in comparison with social media.

A survey conducted in six countries showed a “trust gap” between the two of about 33 percentage points on average.

But the authors of the survey also highlighted the fact that “large minorities” still do not take information on the outbreak seriously enough.

The findings of the survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released yesterday, titled Navigating The “Infodemic”, reflect growing trust in the work of mainstream media organisations amid the coronavirus pandemic, although it also showed that young people were more likely to rely on social media or messaging application groups for information.

The online survey of some 8,000 people was conducted late last month and early this month in the United States, Britain, Germany, South Korea, Spain and Argentina. Respondents had to rate different sources of news and information about the coronavirus, who they trusted and how much they knew about Covid-19.

“Overall, we find that most people rely on news, trust the news and that those who use news media as a source of information know more about the disease than others,” said the authors, led by Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute, and Dr Richard Fletcher, a senior research fellow at the institute.

“News use is up, news organisations remain central and news media are trusted by a majority in all six countries. Most of our respondents also rely on platforms but regard the content they access via social media, video sites and messaging applications (and to a lesser extent search engines) as much less trustworthy than information from news organisations,” they concluded.

The release of the report comes at a crucial time as governments persevere with lockdowns and travel restrictions to ensure social distancing between people, in an effort to contain the pandemic. Over two million people have been infected by the virus globally and more than 130,000 have died from Covid-19.

The survey results showed the media’s crucial role in making people understand Covid-19 and the consequences of measures not being followed through.

Generally, people said news media had helped them understand the crisis and explained how they could react to it in comparison with governments (see graphic). However, a number also felt that news media exaggerated the crisis relative to governments.

Respondents had a high level of trust in scientists, doctors and health experts.

The authors highlighted one area for concern with regard to young people and those with limited formal education who tended to rely less on news organisations for information on Covid-19, trusted both news media and governments less and might not know enough about the coronavirus.

“Large minorities in every country do not engage with news (and do not trust it) and do not engage with government advice (and do not trust it) and, in turn, often know less about the crisis… There is still much work to do – for news organisations, governments, platform companies, and others – to ensure that everyone knows that they need to know about the coronavirus and on that basis can act to protect themselves, those they care about, and their wider communities.”

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