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News media has helped UK understand the pandemic, Reuters report concludes

Posted on: August 26, 2020 by Mariella Brown

The majority of people say the news media has helped them understand and respond to the pandemic, a new report has found.

The tenth and final factsheet of Reuters Institute’s Covid-19 news and information project concluded that 56% of respondents say the news media have helped them understand the pandemic and 61% say that journalists have helped explain what they can do in response to it.

Despite investigative reporting by the news media on the government response to Covid, 35% say they think the coronavirus situation in the UK has been made worse by how the news media have covered it. Only 7% say that news coverage has made the crisis better.

Data collected from 13 – 19 August also found that the percentage of people who say they have used news organisations as a source of information about Covid-19 in the last week has gone down substantially since April: 22 points for television and 17 points for online news.

Only 45% of the 1,000 people surveyed rate news organisations as relatively trustworthy sources of information about the pandemic, down from 57% in April.

Trust in information sources such as news and the government have seen a significant decline since the start of the pandemic, with national health organisations and scientists seeing less of a dip.

Figure 1. Proportion that trust news and information about coronavirus from ____

While declining trust in news organisations as a source of information about Covid-19 is a challenge for the industry, the report’s authors said it is worth highlighting that the coronavirus crisis may have persuaded at least some of the public that news media have value.

“When we look beyond trust in COVID-19 news and information specifically, and compare the percentage who in August say they feel they can trust most news most of the time with figures from early 2020 collected before the pandemic hit the UK, we have seen an increase from 28% to 34%,” authors Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Antonis Kalogeropoulos and Richard Fletcher said.

“The percentage of people who say they at least feel they can trust most of the news they consume most of the time has increased from 39% to 52%.”

Meanwhile, trust in the UK government has plummeted from 67% in April to 44% in August with only 22% saying they trust politicians on Covid-19 compared to 38% in April.

However, when respondents were questioned on how they felt about fake news, Brits were more concerned about false statements from the UK government (38%) and politicians (37%) than from misinformation from news organisations (30%).

The report found that concerns over politicians have grown since April but concerns over misinformation from news media has remained stable.

Read the report in full here.