The Fox News Blunder: When it Comes to News Sources, Is Trust as Important as we Think It Is?
By Wayne Goodreau
I just came across this little story where Fox News accidentally showed a graphic that positioned them as the least trustworthy news source (against CNN and CNBC) when compared to how much people trust President Trump. My immediate reaction to this story was, um, “yeesh” I suppose. But beyond that, it made me think back to some work I did with Invoke and DialSmith back in 2014 to understand how Millennials get their news.
The full report is here if you want to take a look.
In that report, trustworthiness came across as the most important characteristic. When asked what characteristics they look for in a news source (open-ended), they often use words such as “unbiased,” “accurate,” “trustworthy” and “up-to-date.” These themes of trust and being up-to-date popped up throughout the live session we conducted as we delved deeper.
But as you can see in the graphic below, trust was very important to Millennials. Out of 10 characteristics listed, 70% of these respondents ranked trustworthiness #1 and none ranked it last.
In that session, I also asked these Millennials to view the same story (the influx of immigrant children coming into the US) reported by three different sources – Bill O’Reilly (Conservative then-host of The O’Reilly Factor), Jon Stewart (Liberal then-host of the Daily Show), and an analytical report by the CNN News Room.
After they viewed each clip, they were asked to provide feedback on them. As you can see from the graphic below, the Fox News host was noted as least trustworthy.
Trustworthiness of News Sources – Top 2 Box
Now, I know 2014 was a long time ago. Stewart and O’Reilly don’t even host these shows anymore and the political climate has changed dramatically. But lack of trust in seems to still be an issue for all networks these days.
The other interesting piece that came to light through this study, however, was that while Millennials valued trust above all else, where they turn for news doesn’t always line up with the sources they trust most. 69% claimed to check social media at least once a day. However, when it comes to ranking news sources on trustworthiness, 41% rank social media as the least trustworthy. Often, they turn to social media for its shareability and speed-to-story.
While this data is four years old and focused squarely only on Millennials and this recent story more brings to light a blunder than any groundbreaking data, I still think this research puts an interesting light on things. In this era of fake news and constantly questioning the media, trust should be the metric any news source should be measured against. However, it doesn’t seem to be the only metric that can predict success as a news source.