A new study from The Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research:
- Accuracy is the paramount principle of trust. Eighty‑five percent of Americans rate it as extremely or very important that news organizations get the facts right, higher than any other general principle. And when we dig down into more specifics, a particular factor related to accuracy —getting the facts right — is most valued regardless of the topic.
- The second‑most valued factor related to trust, however, has more to do with timeliness. Three‑quarters of adults (76 percent) say it is critical to them that a news report be up to date with the latest news and information. This is something all media can compete on in the digital age on fairly equal footing.
- And the third‑most cited factor in why Americans rely on a news source is related to clarity. Fully 72 percent say it is extremely or very important to them that a news report be concise and gets to the point.
- Online, still other factors come into play. Here people cite three specific factors as most important: That ads not interfere with the news (63 percent); that the site or app loads fast (63 percent); and that the content works well on mobile phones (60 percent). In contrast, only 1 in 3 say it is very important that digital sources allow people to comment on news.
- One of the new discoveries in this study is that the reasons people trust and rely on a news source vary by topic. For example, people are significantly more likely to say that expert sources and data are an important reason they turn to a source for news about domestic issues than about lifestyle news (76 percent vs. 48 percent). People are far more likely to want their source to be concise and get to the point for national politics (80 percent) than sports (61 percent). Similarly, people care more that their sources for sports and lifestyle present the news in a way that is entertaining (54 percent and 53 percent) than say the same about political news (30 percent).
- Even how people rank specific elements of digital presentation varies by topic. Close followers of traffic and weather, for instance, care more that such content presents well on their mobile phones (72 percent say that is very important) than do consumers of national political news (55 percent).
- People who rely on social media heavily for news are highly skeptical of the news they encounter in those networks. Just 12 percent of those who get news on Facebook, for instance, say they trust it a lot or a great deal. At the high end, just 23 percent say they have a lot or a great deal of trust in news they encounter on LinkedIn.
- To overcome that general skepticism, social media news consumers say they look for cues to help them know what to trust there. The most important of those, cited by 66 percent of Facebook news consumers, is trust in the original news organization that produced the content. The reputation of the person who shared the material is a less frequently cited factor for Facebook news consumers (48 percent).
- About 4 in 10 Americans (38 percent) can recall a specific recent incident that caused them to lose trust in a news source. The two most common problems were either instances of perceived bias or inaccuracies.