Tuesday, May 9, 2006

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Who's the least trusted of them all?

BBC and Reuters commissioned a poll of 10 countries to find out how much media sources are trusted. One finding that was consistent across countries stood out:

National TV was the most trusted news source overall (trusted by 82%, with 16% not trusting it) - followed by national/regional newspapers (75% vs 19%), local newspapers (69% vs 23%), public radio (67% vs 18%), and international satellite TV (56% vs 19%). Internet blogs were the least trusted source (25% vs 23%) with one in two unable to say whether they trusted them.

posted by Dan on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM


It feels like the wrong question.

When the MSM lies, it tends to be incredibly consistent about it. You'll frequently hear the same lie repeated in every single outlet without the slightest indication that it might be a lie. The consistency is incredible. By contrast, any individual blog might lie, but you'll always find some other blog that prints a refutation. In the blogosphere, the likelihood that you'll read a lie and not see a refutation goes to nil.

In some sense, accuracy doesn't matter at all. What matters is the likelihood that you'll eventually encounter the truth. It doesn't matter if twenty blogs lie to me, as long as I eventually read one that gives me the truth. After all, I'm smart enough to figure out which is which.

With the MSM, the likelihood that any given statement is the truth is probably higher. But because of the MSM's incredible homogeneity, the likelihood that you'll read a lie over and over and never see the truth is much higher.

posted by: Josh Yelon on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

Two nuggets caught my eye in the link: (a) the country where blogs are least trusted is the U.S., and (b) Fox News is the most trusted media brand in the U.S.

Josh, I question if blogs are news sources per se. Look at this one: Dan throws out something of interest and a bunch of people chew on it. It is more a series of opinion pieces than news. And aren't most blogs along the same lines? Thought-provoking, Yes; but news? Nope.

posted by: Racer X, Speed Racer's (unbeknownst to him) brother on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

If you read the Kos headlines today, you will pick up the following facts:

* The CDC is recommending widespread HIV testing.
* The American College of Obstetricians is trying to circumvent the FDA's limits on RU486.
* Foggo, the number 3 man at the CIA, resigned.
* Bush nominated Hayden to replace Goss.

Those are news. Maybe not investigative news, and certainly, there's a lot of opinion mixed in there. But the point is that I *can* learn what's happening in the world by reading blogs, and in fact, I'll probably miss less than if I read newspapers, simply because of the lack of homogeneity.

posted by: Josh Yelon on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

Since I am from Saudi Alberta, I don't see Fox News very often (yes, fortunate, I know), but it strikes me that Fox is not terribly different from blogs. When I have seen Fox, there is a stream of op-eds masquerading as news. Given Racer X's definition of blogs above, how is Fox different?

Even if we concede that Fox is actually a news source, who could ever consider it trustworthy, given its commitment to spreading disinformation (e.g, endlessly repeating the obviously false link between Iraq and 9-11). Did BBC/Reuters skew their sample with delusional folks?

posted by: ++ungood on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]


When the MSM lies, it tends to be incredibly consistent about it.

I really don't think the MSM as an institution conciously lies. Institutionally they tend to be unable to detect the truth even if it bit them in the ass, but that isn't quite the same thing.

It's a little like the persistent meme they try to sell about Bush's 'lies' about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. If they weren't foiund Bush must have been lying - even if Bush's sources of information convincingly showed the opposite....

posted by: Don S on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

Overlooking The Onion and The Daily Show shows a fundamental flaw in survey design.

posted by: Brian on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

There certainly is lot of chaff in the wheat-fields of the blogospphere. However, I think this will change. I can see some of the more established blogs gaining credibility as less credible sources of information on the net slowly disappear - or at least fall in popularity.

Opinion polls that measure the trust people have in internet sources, like this one, are deeply affected by noise.

posted by: Trade-Monkey on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

They made the biggest mistake by translating "National TV" into the Chinese version which means "State-owned TV". Thus most found the first question weird and chose Leader.

posted by: Corleoone on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

As someone who finds both Fox News and the BBC fairly untrustworthy, along with CBS, NBC, CNN, RAI, NDR, etc. I am troubled that so many people across the globe place any trust at all in TV news. Selective use of images is by far the easiest way to influence opinion in a biased manner without seeming overtly biased. At least a newspaper gives you a chance to read between the lines and think about what you are reading. People's faith in the persuasive power of television is disturbing. I think people on the right "trust" Fox, and people on the left "trust" the BBC, precisely because these stations tend to reinforce ideological preconceptions. What most people don't want is to be forced to think about their beliefs.

posted by: vanya_6724 on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

Found this via Richard's great blog: http://siciliannotes.blogspot.com/2006/05/no-editor-no-credibility.html

As I answered on his blog, I think this is actually good news. It shows first that blogs have the same lvel of mistrust as local papers. Second it shows there is greater mistrust for public radio and satellite TV. Blogging is a baby compared to all these other sources of news and having that level of mistrust isn't too bad at all.

Thirdly, it would be good if there was actually a healthy level of mistrust of all news sources and people went about their reading of news and then went off to seek another viewpoint of that news. Putting our trust in one news source might just be a bad thing.

posted by: Damien Mulley on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

I don't trust the media, wholly (it seems to me that journalists have lost their will to ask the tough question, to seek the truth of the story). But I trust blogs not at all. The journalist, properly trained, is supposed to seek out all sides of a story. Blogs are entirely about personal viewpoint. Bloggers will (and have) made up things to support the most outrageous statements. Quite frankly, I find the most balanced sources of news at this time to be CBS (Bob Scheiffer) and NPR. I'm sure that will change. But today, that's how I see it.

posted by: flaime on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

So the next thing to do is to gauge the accuracy of various media, and combine that data with the "trusted" data to score those ten countries on a gullibility index.

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 05.09.06 at 12:23 PM [permalink]

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