The factors behind the fake news label : why some people distrust news media
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News organizations across the country have struggled with the fake news labelling effect, meaning news one labels “fake” because one dislikes or disagrees with it, rather than the spread of misinformation itself, for a number of years, most prominently since the 2016 presidential election. The trend highlights a growing problem for journalists: the establishment of trust between news organizations and news consumers. The concern for many journalists is that left unchecked, a vicious cycle sets up that could threaten democracy itself: Consumers distrust information from media sources, then engage more with less trustworthy content that corroborates their own biases and serves them, algorithmically, more information that will further entrench those views. This ultimately lessens the ability of journalists to serve as a check and balance on government power, as in Edmund Burke's classic Fourth Estate theory. The fake news labelling effect poses a challenge for researchers. People who do not trust news organizations at all may be unwilling to engage in research that helps those organizations or even the field of journalism itself. However, news organizations have an opportunity to build trust with their audiences, in spite of the algorithmic nature of social media news feeds, at least when it comes to those whose distrust of news media is not complete. To test the hypothesis that how news organizations interact with people on social media may influence the extent to which news consumers trust them, the researcher sought out users who commented on the social media accounts of a mid-sized market news/talk radio station and conducted a series of in-depth interviews exploring their social media habits, news consumption habits, and personal beliefs. Analyzed qualitatively, the results showed transparency in reporting, ownership and other aspects of news reporting matters much more than social media engagement when it comes to improving trust between news consumers and the media outlets that generate news. The results also showed that the people who comment on a local news organization's social media accounts may not necessarily live in the geographic area covered by that organization.