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Trust in news declines rapidly in 2024

8 Apr 24

Trust in news declines rapidly in 2024
20% slump in news trust in 5 years

The latest Trust in News survey finds trust has fallen significantly.

The AUT research centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD) has published its fifth annual Trust in News in Aotearoa New Zealand report, authored by Dr Merja Myllylahti and Dr Greg Treadwell.

The 2024 report finds that while interest in news in New Zealand is high compared to 46 other markets, trust in news continues rapidly to decline, and news avoidance is increasing.

The study’s findings, based on a survey conducted by Horizon Research, show trust in news in general fell significantly from 42% in 2023 to 33% (-9%) in 2024.

Avoiding the news to some extent

The proportion of those who actively avoid the news to some extent grew from 69% in 2023 to 75% (+6%) in 2024.

TVNZ has remained the biggest source of news for New Zealanders, but Facebook has become the second most important source of news, despite a drop in its trustworthiness.

  • Journalism has lost its authority as the main source of news and information. In general, people distrust the information they see, and they are increasingly checking their ‘facts’ themselves. This phenomenon is highly problematic, says Dr Merja Myllylahti, JMAD co-director and co-author of the report. 

In 2024, all the major New Zealand news brands suffered declines in trust.

The Otago Daily Times was regarded as the most trustworthy news brand, followed by RNZ and NBR in the second place. TVNZ, Newsroom, other commercial radio stations and BusinessDesk were jointly regarded as the third most trustworthy sources.

  • Trust in news and news outlets keeps declining and journalists and media companies need urgently to form relationships with their audiences and with communities to rebuild that trust, says Dr Greg Treadwell, a co-author of the report.

Paying for digital news

In 2024, the proportion of those who are paying for digital news grew slightly from 23% in 2023 to 24% in 2024.

When compared internationally, New Zealanders are in third place after Norway and Sweden in paying for news.

The Trust in Aotearoa News in New Zealand report is produced in collaboration with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

For the 2024 report, 1,033 New Zealand adults (18 years of age or over) were surveyed between February 12-16, 2023, by Horizon Research.

The survey has a maximum margin of error at the 95% confidence level for the total sample of ±3.0%.

The report can be downloaded here and is also available from AUT here.

Higher decline in trust for some media

In reporting the survey the New Zealand Herald says:

At 33 per cent, trust in New Zealand news sits alongside similar numbers for the UK (also 33 per cent) and the United States (32 per cent), but substantially below the international average of 40 per cent as measured by a Reuters survey of 46 markets.

Among some key findings, the AUT authors say: “From March 2023 to March 2024, almost all the major Aotearoa New Zealand news brands suffered declines in their levels of trust. This was especially the case with broadcasters: trust in Whakaata Māori fell 14.6 per cent, TVNZ 9.4 per cent and Newshub 7.8 per cent.”

Trust in RNZ fell 7.5 per cent.

In June last year, it was revealed an RNZ sub-editor had added pro-Kremlin content to articles about the Ukraine-Russia war.

As today’s AUT report notes, “while the independent inquiry found ‘inappropriate editing of the type that was identified constitutes a serious breach of trust and damaged RNZ’s reputation for accurate and balanced journalism’, it also noted that the leadership of RNZ had overreacted while commenting on the case: ‘The way the journalist’s errors were framed at the time by RNZ’s leadership contributed to public alarm and reputational damage which the panel believes was not helpful in maintaining public trust’.”

What's driving the fall

The AUT survey indicates that declining trust in news comes down to several factors.

“Those who say they don’t trust and/or avoid the news are most concerned about the negativity of news, including its impact on their mental health, and what they perceive as political bias and opinion masquerading as news.”

Treadwell said: “Trust in news and news outlets keeps declining and journalists and media companies need urgently to form relationships with their audiences and with communities to rebuild that trust.”

The Otago Daily Times covers its most-trusted status and what it calls "an exceptionally worrying trend".

Panel discussion

This year’s Report and the future of news in New Zealand will be discussed at a Panel event at AUT’s City Campus on Wednesday 10 April. Drs Myllylahti and Treadwell and doctoral candidate Haley Jones will discuss 2024’s Report. Panellists Miriyana Alexander, former Head of Premium at the New Zealand Herald, and current digital transformation consultant, Kirsty Cameron, editor of the NZ Listener and Paul McIntyre, editor of the Otago Daily Times will join Merja to discuss where to next for news in New Zealand.