Real Talk: US Teens’ Trust In Traditional Media Deteriorating

Teenagers in America are trusting citizen journalists at rapidly increasing rates in recent years while 49 percent don’t trust traditional news media to report on current events fairly and accurately, according to a new poll.

Almost half of teenagers polled — 49 percent — say they don't trust the media to convey information honestly and accurately, according to a Knight Foundation survey published Wednesday. The poll also included questions from Gallup's "Free Expression on Campus" survey of college students.

Meanwhile, students showed a "sharp rise in their trust of citizen journalist reporting compared with traditional news sources." While 26 percent of students trusted photos, videos and accounts posted by individuals two years ago, some 40 percent trust citizen journalists in 2018.
In total, 9,774 high school students participated in the study.

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One data point that jumped out from the report was that 30 percent of high school students said they trusted cable TV news (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) "a lot" in 2016, while just 18 percent said the same thing in 2018.

The share of people who trust cable TV news "some" stayed nearly the same, falling one point from 48 percent to 47 percent. The share of people who don't trust cable TV news "too much" or "at all" shot up from 23 percent to 35 percent.

While 89 percent of students said the First Amendment right to free speech should allow people to keep voicing unpopular opinions, just 45 percent said that people keep that right when their speech is hateful. "Still, when forced to choose which is more important, students by a 5-to-1 ratio say protecting free speech is more important than protecting people from offensive speech," the Knight Foundation's report stated in the executive summary.

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Other interesting findings include that only 1 in 4 students said that "fake news," or made-up articles presented as news, was a "significant threat to democracy."

Approximately one-half of students said "social media stifles expression because people block those with opposing views and because of the fear of vitriolic encounters makes people less apt to share their views," the report said.

"We have a stereotypical image of the media as plucky truth-tellers standing up to the powerful. But in reality five gigantic corporations control 90 percent of what America sees and hears," Alan MacLeod of Glasgow University Media Group told Sputnik Thursday. "Furthermore, the media has become increasingly close to the government." 

MacLeod pointed out that trust in media has been falling in the US for decades, and that the the phenomenon doesn't end at America's borders. He also suggested that newspapers' plummeting revenue has led to "a decrease in high-quality journalism and an increase in poor-quality clickbait. This is the media landscape teenagers have grown up in."  

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