Would I lie to you...?

Here’s something very interesting that is unlikely to be high profile in any news media, although it has made the main headline in the UK’s trade magazine UK Press Gazette. Unfortunately the news tends to undermine the magazine’s sub-title “The Future Of Media."

The results of a recent survey confirm something I have been saying. What is described as a trust survey from the PR firm Edelman shows that two-thirds, or 67 percent, of people gobally said that they believe that journalists and reporters “purposely try to mislead people by saying things they know are false or grossly exaggerated”.

As the magazine reports that is an eight percentage points increase on the result of the company’s last such report published in 2021. The Edelman’s Annual Trust Report for this year also found that trust in the media had fallen across the world with concern about fake news at an all-time high.

From a ‘professional’ (note the apostrophes) point of view it is perhaps more disturbing that 56 percent of people surveyed took the view that the media is a divisive force in socety. Press Gazette reports that it’s own media health check in 2021 found that 76 percent of people live in places with little media freedom and speculated that this ‘likely contributed to distrust in the press’.

To me this is sightly out of line with the fact that the Edelman survey found that Australia and the US reported some of the biggest drops in media trust. That over 76 percent of people globally said they were concerned that false information and fake news could be used as a weapon reflects what I have been saying repeatedly.

In Europe the figures are startlingly dramatic. In Spain 84 percent of people expressed concern about fake news. The figure in the UK was 65 percent and in the Netherlands 63 percent were worried about misinformation and disinformation.

Trust in social media has dropped eight percentage points to only 37 percent saying they trust it. Again, taking the figures as reported by UK Press Gazette, traditional media is least trusted in Russia (39%), Japan (39%), and the US (43%).

The figures, as reported, found a worrying sycophancy with ‘government’. The survey’s authors revealed “a vicious cycle of distrust fuelled by government and media”. Their comment makes interesting reading and should be noted by all in positions of power. They said: “ This vicious cycle of distrust threatens social stability, it’s a death grip where media is chasing clicks and government is chasing votes, both feeding a cycle of disinformation and division and exploiting it for commercial and political gain”.

Now that is a bit of straight reporting of an issue headlined in a respected professional journal. The message is deeply concerning. I am reminded that Oscar Wilde wrote: “In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. This is an improvement certainly. But still it s very bad and wrong and demoralising”.

Refering to the press as the fourth estate he concluded that it had “eaten up the other three”. He concluded that “the Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, while the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by journalism”.

Wilde was commenting on the situation in the UK but today his remarks are, apparently, global. As I have said many times democracy is facing defeat. Aristotle predicted that it would not work because the common people had too little understanding of the issues. He could not have foreseen the situation as it appears today. If he were able to comment now he might say "I told you so!"

I am certainly saying that.

(Note: Would I lie to you is a highly popular BBC comedy show.)

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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