President Trump does not trust news from platform companies – nor do right-wing voters

President Trump not only considers wide swaths of the US news media “enemies of the people”.

He is now also asserting without evidence that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter “silence conservative voices” and has alleged that Google search results are “rigged” and are “suppressing” Republicans and conservatives.

Trump’s attacks included some demonstrable false claims, as for example BuzzFeed News has demonstrated, including the idea that Google promoted president Obama’s State of the Union on its homepage but stopped promoting these speeches when Trump took office.

As Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association that represents online news publishers and a frequent critic of platform companies wrote after Trump’s attacks on Google, “He’s 100% wrong. He’s spreading complete BS. If he was even remotely correct, I would be the first to call it out. I have a lot of issues with Google, this isn’t one of them.”

But will his attacks resonate with conservative voters? Our Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey data suggests it might.

Not only are partisan voters likely to take cues from politicians they support. In this case, the President’s attacks also plays into widespread distrust not only of news media, but also news found via social media and search engines. (Our survey was in the field in January/February so well before Trump started publicly attacking the platform companies.)

People on the political right in the US not only have far less trust in the news media than the rest of the population.

They also trust news in social and search far less than people in the center or on the political left, as shown in the chart below.

17 percent of those on the political right say they trust most news, compared to 16 percent who say they trust news in search engines and just 8 percent who say they trust news in social media. (The latter perhaps complicating the narrative that Conservatives favor social media.)

Trump trust US

Google has denied using political viewpoints to shape its search results, and said “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” (Facebook and Twitter have not responded directly.)

But Trump’s core supporters may not believe it, or any of the other platform companies the President is now attacking. As news media have long known, it is one issue how you can try to avoid political bias. It is another whether some people think you are politically biased.

Thanks to Antonis Kalogeropoulos who helped with the chart.

 

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Trust in UK media

“The British people simply don’t trust the media”, Jeremy Corbyn said in his Alternative MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival. I spoke to BBC News for the News at Ten about trust in UK media, and below is a bit of Reuters Institute data for those interested.

RKN103ps

1) Trust in news is lower in the UK than many other countries,42 percent say they think they can trust “most news most of the time”, placing the UK 20th of the 37 countries we surveyed in 2018.

Trust

2) Corbyn also said that “most of our citizens think our newspapers churn out fake news day in, day out”, and indeed out survey data suggest that many online news users in the UK are also very or extremely concerned over what they see as “stories where facts are twisted to push an agenda” (55%) and “poor journalism” (51%). (Just as 44% are concerned over “the use of the term ‘fake news’ to discredit news media” by politicians and others).

concerns

3) But, while overall trust is low, and many are concerned that much of what they see is biased and shoddy, 54 percent say they trust the news they use, and at the brand level, most people find the BBC and other broadcasters, regional/local papers, and upmarket papers like the Times trustworthy — irrespective of whether they use them or not, whereas some digital-born sites and mid-market/popular newspapers have limited trust even from the people who use them.

brands

All this data and more from our 2018 Digital News Report by Nic Newman et al, available at for free download, interactive graphics etc.

Newsroom Integration As An Organizational Challenge: Approaches of European public service media from a comparative perspective

Newsroom integration has been a priority and a industry buzzword for more than a decade, but how far have European public service media actually integrated their newsrooms? In most cases, not very far.

In an article published in August by Journalism Studies, based on ongoing comparative, qualitative research that Annika Sehl, Alessio Cornia, and I are doing on how European news media are adapting to digital, we (with our colleague Lucas Graves), use interviews at a range of different European public service media to show only a small minority have in fact integrated their newsrooms, and that organizational legacies shape how they are dealing with digital, with especially those with a history of separation between media (as in France), between different channels (as in Italy), or a regional structure (as in Germany) have so far not really integrated.

Abstract below and article here.

In this paper, we examine to what extent public service media (PSM) in six European countries have integrated or are integrating their newsrooms in order to adapt to an increasingly digital media environment. Based on 67 interviews over two years with senior editors and managers, this study constitutes the largest comparative analysis of newsroom change among PSM organizations conducted to date. Despite much talk of “convergence”, our empirical analysis shows that full newsroom integration remains the exception in this sector. Although all of the PSM studied experience pressure to reorganize across platforms, only two have achieved high levels of newsroom integration. Our findings suggest that centralizing online news under a single operational roof — only recently undertaken and still incomplete at several PSM — is a necessary first step to more thorough editorial reorganization across platforms. Our data also shed light on the complex ways that internal and external variables combine to shape organizational change: in addition to organizational challenges, we highlight broader historical, political, and economic factors affecting how PSM have responded to rapid technological shifts in the media environment.

‘We no longer live in a time of separation’: A comparative analysis of how editorial and commercial integration became a norm

Back in June, Journalism: Theory, Practice, Critique published an article based on the ongoing, comparative qualitative research Alessio Cornia, Annika Sehl, and I have been doing on how European news media are adapting to digital.

Based on interviews as 12 different private sector legacy news media, we show how many are rethinking the traditional separation of editorial and commercial operations, and that the increasing integration between editorial and commercial (not assimilation of editorial into commercial, not hierarchical relegation of editorial to commercial) is motivated by the same aspiration as the traditional separation: to ensure professional autonomy, only today that is pursued by working with other parts of the organization to jointly ensure commercial sustainability, rather than by trying to remain completely separate from commercial issues..

The abstract below and the article here.

The separation between editorial and business activities of news organisations has long been a fundamental norm of journalism. Journalists have traditionally considered this separation as both an ethical principle and an organisational solution to preserve their professional autonomy and isolate their newsrooms from profit-driven pressures exerted by advertising, sales and marketing departments. However, many news organisations are increasingly integrating their editorial and commercial operations. Based on 41 interviews conducted at 12 newspapers and commercial broadcasters in six European countries, we analyse how editors and business managers describe the changing relationship between their departments. Drawing on previous research on journalistic norms and change, we focus on how interviewees use rhetorical discourses and normative statements to de-construct traditional norms, build new professionally accepted norms and legitimise new working practices. We find, first, that the traditional norm of separation no longer plays the central role that it used to. Both editors and managers are working to foster a cultural change that is seen as a prerequisite for organisational adaptation to an increasingly challenging environment. Second, we find that a new norm of integration, based on the values of collaboration, adaptation and business thinking, has emerged. Third, we show how the interplay between declining and emerging norms involves a difficult negotiation. Whereas those committed to the traditional norm see commercial considerations as a threat to professional autonomy, our interviewees see the emerging norm as a new way of ensuring professional autonomy by working with other parts of the organisation to jointly ensure commercial sustainability.

Changes in Third-Party Content on European News Websites after GDPR

Working with RISJ colleagues Tim Libert (now at Carnegie Mellon) and Lucas Graves, I’ve worked on a short piece of research examining changes in third-party content and cookies on news sites across seven EU countries before and after GDPR.

Tim led the work using his tool webXray to collect and analyse a total of 10,168 page loads, nearly 1 million content requests, and 2.7 million cookies from April (pre-GDPR) and July (post-GDPR) across over 200 news sites.

We find that news sites continue to be deeply intertwined with a wide range of third parties, especially in advertising, social media, and the like, though there is some drop in the amount of third party content and cookies after GDPR.

The factsheet is here and abstract below.

This factsheet compares the prevalence of third-party web content and cookies on a selection of European news websites one month before and one month after the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).   To understand how news organisations may be adapting to the new privacy framework, prominent news websites in seven countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK) were analysed during the months of April and again in July 2018.

While there is no change in the overall percentage of pages from news providers which contain some form of third-party content (99%) or third-party cookies (98%), we find a 22% drop in the number of cookies set without user consent and an observable decrease in third-party social media content.

Free Media Are Not “The Enemy Of The People”

“Confronting powerful politicians who attack free media is a start. But the real issue is how journalists and news organisations can gain and retain people’s trust. If free media are to win a fight that they never wanted, and hold power to account, they can only do so with the public on their side.”

Today, August 16, around 350 US based news organizations have published editorials challenging President Trump’s “enemy of the people”-rhetoric.

But the problem of powerful politicians actively attacking free media goes well beyond the US.

Self-styled strongmen all over the world, from Italy to India, from Poland to the Philippines, from Ecuador to South Africa are trying to bully journalists and news media into submission.

Free media are not “the enemy of the people” – to the contrary they can at their best inform the public and help them hold power to account. And that is precisely why they are under attack from politicians all over the world.

Standing up to that is not a partisan move, but a public commitment to the values that underpin journalism at its best, a plea that the public trusts trustworthy news media, and a commitment to delivering on and deserving that trust.

I’ve written about that for the European Journalism Observatory here, and why public trust is critical if journalism is to hold power to account.

If journalism studies research want to be part of the conversation about the future of journalism, we need to start showing up

The rise of digital media and the resulting changes in both the practice and business of news, the crisis of confidence in the media in many countries, and growing political pressures on independent journalism in others, animates an increasingly urgent conversation about the future of journalism.

The academic field of journalism studies often seems virtually absent from that conversation.

We might feel that we, like other scientific fields, have “epistemic authority” over our main object of analysis, the legitimate and recognized right to define, describe, and explain specific aspects of reality.

But few seems to care what we know, or find what we do relevant. As former ICA President Larry Gross said at ICA in 2017, we, like other media and communications researchers, may feel we have a lot to offer. But the debate is in practice often dominated by lawyers, economists, and consultants.

Similarly, with some notable exceptions, much of the discussion around what we study—journalism, its output, and the relations that constitute, define, and enable it in different contexts—is driven by practitioners, pundits, and scientists from other fields.

Journalism studies, on the other hand, seems largely absent.

Some of the factors accounting for our relative absence are surely external to our field, things over which we have little control.

But there are arguable also internal factors, factors we might address if we want to be part of the conversation about the future of journalism.[1]

One factor is not showing up.

Consider for example the International Journalism Festival, held every spring in Perugia in Italy. It can serve as a useful illustrative case because it represents a fantastic opportunity to engage with many different voices engaged in the conversation around the future of journalism. (There are many ways to engage, including writing for popular outlets, social media, and private conversations with journalists. But attending professional and industry events like IJF I think are an important example of engagement.)

The festival is free to attend, and draws thousands of people, including hundreds of speakers from news media, technology companies, and policymaking circles. It is genuinely international with participants from many different countries. It is proudly open and inclusive in providing a platform for many different voices from many different backgrounds—those interested simply propose a panel and the organizers work to accommodate all they can, and subsidize most of the speakers.

IJF is fantastically interesting, good fun, and, from an engagement point of view, a cheap, easy, and engaging way for academics to learn from journalists and others and share work with them.

However, it appears that not many academics do so.

Consider the 2018 festival, which hosted more than 500 speakers. Looking specifically at the 386 international speakers, and defining an academic speaker broadly as someone who list their main affiliation as a university and works at least in part with research, I could identify only 40 academics, 10%, amongst the speakers.[2]

Even more strikingly for a festival in (continental) Europe, a full 31 of these worked at UK (18) or US (13) universities. The third largest group by country of work? Canada (!) with 3, followed by Belgium, France, Germany, Serbia, Spain, and Turkey with one each. Leaving aside Italians and the UK, there were just 6 academics from the rest of Europe combined, about 1.5% of all festival speakers.

IJF

If we are serious about being part of the conversation about the future of journalism, we need to start showing up to events like this, and show up in numbers and in all our diversity.

I have no problem with the fact that 90% of the IJF speakers are non-academics. I enjoyed every single panel I went to and learned a ton, often especially from non-academics.

But I do think it is a shame and a missed opportunity for academics, both individually and institutionally, that so few of us show up for events like the IJF that provide such a perfect opportunity for learning from and sharing with practitioners, policymakers, and members of the public interested in what we do.

Some scholars have developed a normative idea of “reciprocal journalism”, based on the idea of mutually beneficial forms of exchange.

Perhaps we need an similar commitment from academics to “reciprocal research”, strengthening our own work while also giving back to the public, the people we study, and policy-making discussions?

Some scholars do already show up, judging by the 2018 numbers especially academics from the UK and the US. What drives this strong representation?

Some of it is surely the added visibility and reach that can come with working in English, and in the case of the US a large field of academics with international interests.

But remember, IJF is open to anyone who pitches a panel. (I have no reason to think the festival routinely rejects relevant proposals, but can’t really know from the outside – if anyone has had such experiences, please let me know.)

So part of the reason is likely that UK and US academics pitch more frequently than their counterparts elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

One possible explanation is the growing number of extra-departmental, inter-disciplinary centers committed to connecting research and practice that seems particularly prevalent in English-speaking universities. (This would include for example POLIS at the LSE in the UK and Agora at the University of Oregon in the US as well as us at the Reuters Institute in Oxford.)

Such centers account for only a tiny part of the overall number of academics researching journalism, but they are important because they operate differently from traditional departments where, I would posit, the informal norms and formal reward systems of our field often do not reward engagement, and often tend to reward inwards discussion and narrow specialization.

Centers, in contrast, can serve as what science and technology scholars call trading zones, spaces where the development of interactional expertise helps people with different practical experience, professional objectives, and forms of substantive expertise collaborate across their differences.

And indeed, if we break down the 40 academics who presented at the International Journalism Festival in 2018, by my count, 13 out of the 31 UK and US academics come from various extra-departmental, inter-disciplinary centers focused on connecting research and practice. 6 are associated with the Reuters Institute alone – more than the total number of academic IJF speakers from Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Turkey combined. (I am not familiar with all the academic institutions people work at, so I may have under-counted centers based in countries where I do not speak the language. When in doubt, I have assumed people are based in a department, not a center.)

Some may see this difference between departments and centers as a zero-sum trade-off or a division of labor. From this point of view, departments focus on basic science, centers do applied work and engagement. I think this is often misleading.

A different perspective and from my point of view more useful approach is the one developed by some sociologists of science, who have distinguished between what they call “Mode 1” (an older paradigm of scientific work, driven by academically exclusive, investigator-initiated, and discipline-based forms of knowledge production) and “Mode 2,” the kinds of context-driven, problem-focused, and interdisciplinary forms of knowledge production that are central to some of the most successful fields in science today, like computer science, engineering, and medicine.

From this perspective, all centers can benefit from doing some basic science, and all departments can benefit from more engagement.

I would suggest much of the work done in journalism studies today often aspires to the inwards-looking “Mode 1” model, whereas work done in extra-departmental interdisciplinary centers aspires to “Mode 2” forms of knowledge production in ways that tend to encourage engagement with an evolving set of both inside and outside partners and focus on contemporary issues.

The difference here is not between basic and applied research, or between intellectual substance and practical application, but in how questions are asked, why, how work is done, and how it is published.

At the Reuters Institute, for example, we combine self-published fast turn-around reports with peer-reviewed articles in top outlets like the Journal of Communication and New Media & Society.

Similarly, many other academics who spoke (and listened) at the International Journalism Festival combine a focus on scholarly work with a real commitment to engagement with practitioners, whether already established figures like Charlie Beckett and Regina Lawrence, people like Nikki Usher and Ruthie Palmer from my own generation, or PhD students like Lisa-Maria Neudert and Philip di Salvo. If we as a field are serious about engaging in the discussion, learning from and sharing with journalists, policymakers, and the public, we should recognize and celebrate those who do, especially early career researchers who are frankly taking a risk – one I think they should and will be rewarded for – when they take out time to attend things like this rather than trying to crank out yet another peer-reviewed journal article.

Both “Mode 1” and “Mode 2“forms of knowledge production have different strengths and weaknesses, but there is no doubt which one prioritize engagement the most, nor which of them privilege what former ERC President Helga Nowotny has called “social robustness”, the aim of producing “robust knowledge” that is relevant to and accepted by actors in the context of its application.

My own view is that “Mode 2” offers a very promising model of knowledge production for journalism studies if we wish to produce knowledge that is relevant and robust in addition to being distinct, valuable, and reliable.

From this perspective, more engagement would not be distraction for journalism studies, but a way of enriching our work, while also making a greater contribution to public debate, and perhaps to the public. I think this has great potential, for journalism studies as a field, and for the discussion around journalism, and hope many more academics will join.

At its best, journalism studies can be an important part of the conversation about the future of journalism.

But to do so, we need to start showing up, listening to and learning from those already engaged in the discussion, integrate such engagement in what we do and what we value as a field, and work hard to make sure that our work brings independent evidence and insight to the issues of the day.

As John F. Kennedy is supposed to have said, “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” I suggest academics interested in engaging more with those most active in the discussion around the future of journalism, and learning from this conversation start by showing up in greater numbers.

Perhaps try it by coming to the IJF in Perugia next year? It’s April 3-7. Mark your calendar. I’ve marked mine. I hope to see you there.

Notes

[1] I’ve written about similar issues in the field of political communication research here.

[2] This is not a formal content analysis and done quickly on my own by looking through all speakers and categorizing them on the basis of their stated affiliation. The definition of “academic” means that Aron Pilhofer, who does not have a PhD but does important work at Temple University, is counted as an academic, while Guy Berger, who is an accomplished academic but works for UNESCO, does not (nor does Alan Rusbridger who at the University of Oxford, but as Principal of Lady Margaret Hall). I have coded people by the institutional affiliation they provide, not their country of origin.