The increased competition for attention in the digital era has not significantly eroded public confidence in the mainstream news media, according to a recent poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion for the Canadian Media Research Consortium. Canadians responding to an online survey of a representative national sample of 1,682 adults report high levels of confidence in the reliability and trustworthiness of established news organizations. Offline newspapers, television newscasts and their online websites lead the way in public assessments of reliability, far ahead of social networks and public wikis. The traditional news organizations, including radio news, are judged to be reliable and trustworthy by nearly nine out of 10 Canadians, while social networks are seen as reliable by only one in four.
Confidence in the information found on social networking sites is higher among frequent visitors to social networks. Among Canadians who visit social networks at least daily, some 40 per cent regard the information found there as reliable.
It seems clear that the traditional media and their established processes of verification and editing still inspire public confidence, whether the news and information are delivered online or offline. In an era of increasing audience fragmentation and competition for established news media, this is good news for traditional journalism, but reliance on and confidence in online sources is also high. Online news websites and television are the most important sources of information for Canadians.
Social media and other information sites online are still used by many to provide news alerts and alternative perspectives. The established news brands continue to be the gold standard for verification. The traditional media are the gatekeepers of news but, even in the digital age, they remain crucial providers of verification and context.