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Surveys show that - 20 years into the digital revolution - most people now don’t know who to trust.

Two thirds now say they can’t tell a good source of news from a bad source.

Societies can’t work in an age of information chaos. Government, science, law: none of them work unless you have agreed facts.

But - at the very time that people might be expected to turn to journalism for a reliable guide to the world around us - surveys show the media to be the least trusted of all institutions.

What do you think went wrong? Why is the media experiencing a crisis in both economics and trust? And how will societies ensure a reliable source of news in the future?



Alan Rusbridger was Editor in Chief of the Guardian from 1995-2015, and published some of the biggest stories of the 21st century (Wikileaks, Phone hacking, Edward Snowden).

He is currently Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and Chair of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

During his time at the Guardian, both he and the paper won numerous awards, including the 2014 Pulitzter Prize for Public Service Journalism. The Guardian grew from a printed paper with a circulation of 400,000 to a leading digital news organisation with 150m browsers a month around the world. He launched now-profitable editions in Australia and the US as well as a membership scheme which now has 1m Guardian readers paying for content.

He was born in Zambia, was educated at Cambridge and lives in Oxford and London. He is the co-author of the BBC drama, Fields of Gold. He is a keen amateur musician and the author of Play it Again. His memoir of journalism and its future, Breaking News, was published in 2018.

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harrysbar
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(Original post by University of Oxford Guest Lecturer)
Surveys show that - 20 years into the digital revolution - most people now don’t know who to trust.

Two thirds now say they can’t tell a good source of news from a bad source.

Societies can’t work in an age of information chaos. Government, science, law: none of them work unless you have agreed facts.

But - at the very time that people might be expected to turn to journalism for a reliable guide to the world around us - surveys show the media to be the least trusted of all institutions.

What do you think went wrong? Why is the media experiencing a crisis in both economics and trust? And how will societies ensure a reliable source of news in the future?



Alan Rusbridger was Editor in Chief of the Guardian from 1995-2015, and published some of the biggest stories of the 21st century (Wikileaks, Phone hacking, Edward Snowden).

He is currently Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and Chair of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

During his time at the Guardian, both he and the paper won numerous awards, including the 2014 Pulitzter Prize for Public Service Journalism. The Guardian grew from a printed paper with a circulation of 400,000 to a leading digital news organisation with 150m browsers a month around the world. He launched now-profitable editions in Australia and the US as well as a membership scheme which now has 1m Guardian readers paying for content.

He was born in Zambia, was educated at Cambridge and lives in Oxford and London. He is the co-author of the BBC drama, Fields of Gold. He is a keen amateur musician and the author of Play it Again. His memoir of journalism and its future, Breaking News, was published in 2018.

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Views: 55
Size:  19.7 KB
I think people are so accustomed to the concept of fake news by now, even from their own politicians, that they will never completely trust any one source of information again. Older generations may have trusted newspapers like the Guardian or the Times to shape their thinking on particular topics, but this is no longer the case and I can’t really see how the trend could be reversed.

What do you thinkOxford Mum?
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JanusGodofDoors
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Societies can’t work in an age of information chaos. Government, science, law: none of them work unless you have agreed facts.

But - at the very time that people might be expected to turn to journalism for a reliable guide to the world around us - surveys show the media to be the least trusted of all institutions.

What do you think went wrong? Why is the media experiencing a crisis in both economics and trust? And how will societies ensure a reliable source of news in the future?

Not an easy question by any means, but is it arguable that the crises of the last couple of decades has destroyed faith in the old liberal centrist democratic consensus, leading to extreme identity and ideological interest groups based on conflict emerging.

They give themselves power by arguing that they alone can interpret the wishes of the people, and that no one else can understand the will of the people. It is therefore in their interest to undermine directly and indirectly the credibility of any other institution claiming to represent the people, not just rival social and political groups, but also any news story or service that does not agree without question with their version of the truth.

The media is cast as an agent of political opponents seeking to undermine the people and their one true group of representatives, through selective emphasis on particular scandals and reports, thus discrediting it when it’s stories indirectly or directly weaken the group. News media then either adapts and focuses on a singular demographic and its world view (Fox News) or attempts to obsessively deliver balance and keep its entire consumer base (BBC).

The existence of partisan news outlets then further drives division, as people reach the mental conclusion that there are multiple versions of the truth, but only theirs is right, and anything outside of that is a lie, a half truth, or “fake news”. The truth rather than driving the narratives and stories we tell ourselves (eg libertarianism, communism, fascism) instead is subsumed into becoming PART OF the narrative.

Rudy Guiliani said it best: “Truth is not truth”, arguably the single most important phrase of the entire Trump presidency, and one which has dire ramifications for a democracy and society built upon the idea that we all agree on the facts, but just can’t agree on what we do with the facts. We may be moving back to a new yet familiar era (think Stalins USSR) in which critical reporting becomes a partisan attack and facts themselves become an opinion, as is once again exemplified by Trumps standard attack of “fake news “ on unflattering journalistic reports.

There is no way out of this that I can think of. The crisis in journalism is part of a wider crisis in society, in which the foundation of consensus through which we live together is being constantly eroded by an unprecedented series of global issues as humanity transitions from one era of global history to another. All we can do is hope to weather the storm, and hope that someday our descendants will be able to rebuild the social consensus. With any luck they will be smarter people than us, so long as our bickering does not destroy their future first.
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harrysbar
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(Original post by JanusGodofDoors)
Two thirds now say they can’t tell a good source of news from a bad source.

Societies can’t work in an age of information chaos. Government, science, law: none of them work unless you have agreed facts.

But - at the very time that people might be expected to turn to journalism for a reliable guide to the world around us - surveys show the media to be the least trusted of all institutions.

What do you think went wrong? Why is the media experiencing a crisis in both economics and trust? And how will societies ensure a reliable source of news in the future?

Not an easy question by any means, but is it arguable that the crises of the last couple of decades has destroyed faith in the old liberal centrist democratic consensus, leading to extreme identity and ideological interest groups based on conflict emerging. They give themselves power by arguing that they alone can interpret the wishes of the people, and that no one else can understand the will of the people. It is therefore in their interest to undermine directly and indirectly the credibility of any other institution claiming to represent the people, not just rival social and political groups, but also any news story or service that does not agree without question with their version of the truth. The media is cast as an agent of political opponents seeking to undermine the people and their one true group of representatives, through selective emphasis on particular scandals and reports, thus discrediting it when it’s stories indirectly or directly weaken the group. News media then either adapts and focuses on a singular demographic and its world view (Fox News) or attempts to obsessively deliver balance and keep its entire consumer base (BBC). The existence of partisan news outlets then further drives division, as people reach the mental conclusion that there are multiple versions of the truth, but only theirs is right, and anything outside of that is a lie, a half truth, or “fake news”. The truth rather than driving the narratives and stories we tell ourselves (eg libertarianism, communism, fascism) instead is subsumed into becoming PART OF the narrative. Rudy Guiliani said it best: “Truth is not truth”, arguably the single most important phrase of the entire Trump presidency, and one which has dire ramifications for a democracy and society built upon the idea that we all agree on the facts, but just can’t agree on what we do with the facts. We may be moving back to a new yet familiar era (think Stalins USSR) in which critical reporting becomes a partisan attack and facts themselves become an opinion, as is once again exemplified by Trumps standard attack of “fake news “ on unflattering journalistic reports. There is no way out of this that I can think of. The crisis in journalism is part of a wider crisis in society, in which the foundation of consensus through which we live together is being constantly eroded by an unprecedented series of global issues as humanity transitions from one era of global history to another. All we can do is hope to weather the storm, and hope that someday our descendants will be able to rebuild the social consensus. With any luck they will be smarter people than us, so long as our bickering does not destroy their future first.
Wow, I agree with a lot of this but paragraphs would have made it easier to read
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University of Oxford Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by harrysbar)
I think people are so accustomed to the concept of fake news by now, even from their own politicians, that they will never completely trust any one source of information again. Older generations may have trusted newspapers like the Guardian or the Times to shape their thinking on particular topics, but this is no longer the case and I can’t really see how the trend could be reversed.

What do you thinkOxford Mum?
"Trust" is a difficult word. Journalists, of course, want to be trusted - even if they are deeply sceptical of other sources. But, you're right, people are bound to be sceptical of journalists, along with other sources of information today. A degree of scepticism is healthy... I'm interested in the techniques journalists might use to budge people from scepticism to trust.
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rjckk
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I don't think so.
I'm sure some western medias don't report correctly about Chinese issues
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University of Oxford Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by JanusGodofDoors)
Societies can’t work in an age of information chaos. Government, science, law: none of them work unless you have agreed facts.

But - at the very time that people might be expected to turn to journalism for a reliable guide to the world around us - surveys show the media to be the least trusted of all institutions.

What do you think went wrong? Why is the media experiencing a crisis in both economics and trust? And how will societies ensure a reliable source of news in the future?

Not an easy question by any means, but is it arguable that the crises of the last couple of decades has destroyed faith in the old liberal centrist democratic consensus, leading to extreme identity and ideological interest groups based on conflict emerging.

They give themselves power by arguing that they alone can interpret the wishes of the people, and that no one else can understand the will of the people. It is therefore in their interest to undermine directly and indirectly the credibility of any other institution claiming to represent the people, not just rival social and political groups, but also any news story or service that does not agree without question with their version of the truth.

The media is cast as an agent of political opponents seeking to undermine the people and their one true group of representatives, through selective emphasis on particular scandals and reports, thus discrediting it when it’s stories indirectly or directly weaken the group. News media then either adapts and focuses on a singular demographic and its world view (Fox News) or attempts to obsessively deliver balance and keep its entire consumer base (BBC).

The existence of partisan news outlets then further drives division, as people reach the mental conclusion that there are multiple versions of the truth, but only theirs is right, and anything outside of that is a lie, a half truth, or “fake news”. The truth rather than driving the narratives and stories we tell ourselves (eg libertarianism, communism, fascism) instead is subsumed into becoming PART OF the narrative.

Rudy Guiliani said it best: “Truth is not truth”, arguably the single most important phrase of the entire Trump presidency, and one which has dire ramifications for a democracy and society built upon the idea that we all agree on the facts, but just can’t agree on what we do with the facts. We may be moving back to a new yet familiar era (think Stalins USSR) in which critical reporting becomes a partisan attack and facts themselves become an opinion, as is once again exemplified by Trumps standard attack of “fake news “ on unflattering journalistic reports.

There is no way out of this that I can think of. The crisis in journalism is part of a wider crisis in society, in which the foundation of consensus through which we live together is being constantly eroded by an unprecedented series of global issues as humanity transitions from one era of global history to another. All we can do is hope to weather the storm, and hope that someday our descendants will be able to rebuild the social consensus. With any luck they will be smarter people than us, so long as our bickering does not destroy their future first.
Phew - that's quite bleak! Im not sure we can afford to be so fatalistic. There are modest steps we can take. There are such things as facts. There is evidence. We can definitively say some things are untrue and report that things happened, or didn't happen. We need to be more attentive to sources and footnotes and links. We can engage in debate and conversation. I agree the old technique of handing down a tablet of stone is no longer very persuasive... but I don't think we abandon any immediate hope of creating a social consensus around agreed facts
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University of Oxford Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by harrysbar)
Wow, I agree with a lot of this but paragraphs would have made it easier to read
paragraphs always help!:zomg:
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harrysbar
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(Original post by University of Oxford Guest Lecturer)
"Trust" is a difficult word. Journalists, of course, want to be trusted - even if they are deeply sceptical of other sources. But, you're right, people are bound to be sceptical of journalists, along with other sources of information today. A degree of scepticism is healthy... I'm interested in the techniques journalists might use to budge people from scepticism to trust.
They could try being more balanced in the way they report things, but that might not generate as much interest. People respond to dramatic headlines and emotive language but at the same time, are partly aware that they are being manipulated and so take what is being said with a pinch of salt
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ThatOldGuy
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The war between news as an information tool and as 'Infotainment' has already been fought, and information lost.

It is probably partly due to 24 hour news access, advertising revenue-streams pushing 'clicks' combined with outrage culture and good old fashioned laziness.

Simply put: Newspapers, television stations and websites that pushed emotional buttons rather than being informative did better commercially. Because they did better commercially, the more traditional news either shifted to join the more lucrative infotainment market or they fell by the wayside and simply ceased to exist.

Case in point: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/articl...s-bathmophobia

This is a BBC article stating that Donald Trump is 'Scared of stairs'. It's lurid, mildly entertaining and it subtly takes jabs at someone that the BBCs viewership want to see having jabs taken at. It's also false.

This is the BBC, a generally respected name in journalism, and they failed society by catering to a specific demographic at the expense of journalistic integrity. Society failed them by demanding this sort of journalism.

When the most respected names in journalism are clearly pandering at the expense of truth, who do you trust?
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University of Oxford Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by rjckk)
I don't think so.
I'm sure some western medias don't report correctly about Chinese issues
i'm sure that's true...
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University of Oxford Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by ThatOldGuy)
The war between news as an information tool and as 'Infotainment' has already been fought, and information lost.

It is probably partly due to 24 hour news access, advertising revenue-streams pushing 'clicks' combined with outrage culture and good old fashioned laziness.

Simply put: Newspapers, television stations and websites that pushed emotional buttons rather than being informative did better commercially. Because they did better commercially, the more traditional news either shifted to join the more lucrative infotainment market or they fell by the wayside and simply ceased to exist.

Case in point: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/articl...s-bathmophobia

This is a BBC article stating that Donald Trump is 'Scared of stairs'. It's lurid, mildly entertaining and it subtly takes jabs at someone that the BBCs viewership want to see having jabs taken at. It's also false.

This is the BBC, a generally respected name in journalism, and they failed society by catering to a specific demographic at the expense of journalistic integrity. Society failed them by demanding this sort of journalism.

When the most respected names in journalism are clearly pandering at the expense of truth, who do you trust?
Well, there's some truth in that, but it's a bit broadbrush, no? The BBC employs a huge number of journalists and by and large does a decent job. People overwhelmingly trust it against other news providers - like, 57% as against 1% for the Times, or the Telegraph or the FT. see this survey

I agree with you that it has no need to go chasing clicks or going downmarket. We can probably all think of things to criticise about its coverage in recent times. But I don't think it's fair to say it's pandering to entertainment at the expense of truth
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University of Oxford Guest Lecturer
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(Original post by harrysbar)
They could try being more balanced in the way they report things, but that might not generate as much interest. People respond to dramatic headlines and emotive language but at the same time, are partly aware that they are being manipulated and so take what is being said with a pinch of salt
yes, I agree with that. And I think newspapers should spend more time on - and give more prominence to - news over comment.
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Puddles the Monkey
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I have no answers but I wonder if we need to completely change the way we think about truth and facts... 'Deep fake' content is increasing and we are on the verge of being unable to tell whether a source is real or not. How will anyone be able to trust anyone when nobody knows what's true or not?
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(Original post by Puddles the Monkey)
I have no answers but I wonder if we need to completely change the way we think about truth and facts... 'Deep fake' content is increasing and we are on the verge of being unable to tell whether a source is real or not. How will anyone be able to trust anyone when nobody knows what's true or not?
Thats the problem I don't think there's a magic answer. I do think a) sticking to the evidence; and b) showing your workings are two tried and tested techniques of truthfulness. Academics behave like this. They don't assume other people will believe them: they use footnotes; they show their sources; they explain how an experiment can be replicated so someone else can verify it works... and so on. Journalism could learn some of these techniques,
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Room_237
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(Original post by University of Oxford Guest Lecturer)
Thats the problem I don't think there's a magic answer. I do think a) sticking to the evidence; and b) showing your workings are two tried and tested techniques of truthfulness. Academics behave like this. They don't assume other people will believe them: they use footnotes; they show their sources; they explain how an experiment can be replicated so someone else can verify it works... and so on. Journalism could learn some of these techniques,
Really agree here. Obviously it's impossible for journalists to be neutral as they're people like anyone else and have their own opinions and biases. It does worry me when people who work at supposedly impartial organisations like the BBC allow their personal biases to interfere with the factual work they're supposed to do. That can work both ways of course, but surely the job of political journalists is to hold power to account, not to become their mouthpiece?
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CoolCavy
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Doing history alevel taught me to be critical of sources and evaluate motives etc. Everyone should be doing that before they share things but obviously that is arduous and time consuming so most people just click share without a second thought. People need to get out of the Facebook echo chamber and seek news stories from multiple sources and multiple points of view.
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z-hog
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Can we have a practical example of Fake News?
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JanusGodofDoors
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(Original post by University of Oxford Guest Lecturer)
Phew - that's quite bleak! Im not sure we can afford to be so fatalistic. There are modest steps we can take. There are such things as facts. There is evidence. We can definitively say some things are untrue and report that things happened, or didn't happen. We need to be more attentive to sources and footnotes and links. We can engage in debate and conversation. I agree the old technique of handing down a tablet of stone is no longer very persuasive... but I don't think we abandon any immediate hope of creating a social consensus around agreed facts
I am a bit of a pessimist I’m afraid!! 😂

I take your point that we should strive to rebuild the social consensus, I’m just not sure how we realistically can achieve this.

In terms of sourcing, my immediate question is what constitutes a legitimate source? How does a news service defend against the charge that the source is simply lying. And who gets to make the judgement about that source? Many news outlets in repressive states would argue that the government can be relied upon to tell the truth, and that the opposition are all liars (eg PRC).

Furthermore, how easy is it to make people start valuing good journalism - are people really going to stop picking up their favourite tabloid just because it doesn’t have source citations? Good journalism costs money, which means either raising prices and making the journalism harder to access, or appealing to sponsors, which inevitably raises questions about editorial independence.

Even if funding is secured, then carefully considering every angle of a news story to ensure 100% accuracy takes time, and less scrupulous services might well try to undercut better journalists and rush stories out as soon as possible without gathering proper evidence.

People whose beliefs are deeply ingrained might not believe reports even if, on the balance of evidence those reports are true, which could push news organisations toward having to prove every single story beyond all possible doubt.

What’s more, what if we cannot provide certain evidence that something is real? What if we missed something serious because we cannot prove it beyond doubt - eg reports of sexual misconduct by prominent persons - and as a result people or institutions get away with things they shouldn’t.

What do we do when people believe in something which is not true, and simply ignore the evidence which proves them wrong in favour of another piece of hand picked evidence which proves them right.

Take Brexit, people simply do not agree. As of right now there is no solution that will avoid alienating a significant part of the populace. That does not preclude the possibility that a solution will emerge, or that we should stop trying, but right now the situation cannot be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Many people on both leave and remain sides completely ignore critical news stories, even if they are true. This is just one example of how divided we are.

Sorry for all the question marks, “how’s” and “what do we do ifs”!

This is really interesting, thank you for staring this thread!
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Puddles the Monkey
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(Original post by z-hog)
Can we have a practical example of Fake News?
Lots of examples here: https://www.itv.com/news/2019-02-18/...agate-clinton/
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