Data collected from approximately 10,000 citizens across all provinces as part of the Canadian Social Survey on quality of life, virtual healthcare and trust shows that 53% of respondents have low levels of trust in the media.
Less than one in six (16%) said they had a high level of trust in the media, while 32% of respondents to the Statistics Canada survey said they had a moderate level of trust in these institutions.
“It’s worrying for the media because they are demanding more and more public help and public money, while people are becoming more and more suspicious or very suspicious of them,” estimates Marc-François Bernier, a full professor in the communications department at the University of Ottawa.
However, these results do not surprise the professor, even if this phenomenon is not new.
“We have been seeing this phenomenon since the 1970s and 1980s, it is well documented, particularly in the United States,” he explains. At the same time, almost every major social or democratic institution has lost significant public trust since these years.”
“It’s even worse for the media because one of their strengths is trust and the other is their credibility,” Bernier adds.
According to Bernier, several factors can explain the public’s low trust in the media. Some people believe that the media does not admit its mistakes or that journalists are not necessarily independent of political power or special interests.
Citizens also “unite all types of journalists,” says the professor, from investigative journalists to columnists.
“What we see in the polls is that people believe there are too many columnists,” Bernier says.
In his opinion, there are two types of distrust of the media: distrust based on ignorance, in which people are uninformed about how the media works, and enlightened distrust, in which individuals know the profession of journalism well but that Feeling like they know him well but don’t know their work well.
Mr Bernier also points out that the further to the right a person is on the political spectrum, the more suspicious they are of the media.
The level of trust also varies depending on the type of media viewed.
Traditional media is gaining the trust of more citizens, regardless of age group. Television, radio and the printed press each arouse the trust of 28% of those surveyed.
Only 5% of respondents said they had a high level of trust in news from social media, compared to 13% for news from the internet.
However, the majority of survey participants obtain information via the Internet (33%), followed by television (28%) and social media (24%). Radio and print lag far behind, while Statistics Canada says 8% of Canadians prefer to get their information on the radio and 5% in newspapers.
According to the survey, people aged 65 and over have more trust in the media than younger people.
“They were almost twice as likely as 15- to 24-year-olds to have a high level of trust in all media,” the document says.
Older Canadians are also more likely to get their news from traditional media. For 63% of this age group, television is the preferred means of obtaining information.
Unsurprisingly, young people are more likely to seek news online or on social media: 85% of 15-34 year olds said they primarily get their news on these platforms.
What to do?
According to the University of Ottawa professor, several solutions could be implemented to increase public trust in the media.
In addition to working diligently, journalists must also ensure that they publicly acknowledge their mistakes and take an interest in issues that also affect the citizens of the regions.
Mr. Bernier reiterates that people in the regions often feel unrecognized in the media of large urban centers.
“We also need to work on regionalizing the information,” he explains.
That work won’t be done anytime soon, however, as TVA Group announced last week that it would lay off 31% of its workforce, a move that particularly affects regional broadcasters. The National Independent Information Cooperative is also struggling with the end of its weekly newspaper edition, which led to 125 employees entering a voluntary exit program.
“There are more and more information deserts in Quebec,” says Bernier.
Award-winning entrepreneur. Baconaholic. Food advocate. Wannabe beer maven. Twitter ninja.