The majority of BYU-Idaho students don’t trust the news, a recent BYU-I survey reported.
In October, BYU-I students were asked, “In general, you trust the news media, both local and national, how much?” One meant absolutely no trust and 100 meant complete trust. The average students’ response was 33.
Students’ lack of trust in the news is similar to that of national reports. The Pew Research Center found that “Americans tend to express more negative than positive views about the news media” and less than half of Americans trust the news, according to a Gallup study.
“I think news outlets have stopped making it a priority for the authors of articles to gain the trust of the readers,” said Hannah Muirhead, a junior studying music education. “It is rare that I read an article and become convinced that they have credibility or authority to be sharing an opinion on the subject.”
Today, especially amongst political debates, a global pandemic and polarization of opinions, the news media can contain many different opinions.
On average, 70% of BYU-I students believe the news is biased, the recent survey found.
“I think the majority of major news sources are sharing current events, and I trust that they’re covering big stories,” said Will Peterson, a junior studying marketing. “Whether they’re biased or not is a different story.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists and the news are especially critiqued.
“I have heard so many people, especially with COVID-19 hitting, thinking that the news is twisting things,” said Brittni Johnson, a senior studying communication and reporter for East Idaho News. “I’ve spent so many hours doing research on different topics like ‘are hospitals billing COVID-19 patients,’ or ‘can you compare COVID-19 and the flu,’ or ‘COVID-19 and the Spanish flu,’ and it’s hard all the hours I’ve spent and time that I’ve put into crafting these articles to sometimes get the comments that we’re blowing it up out of proportion.”
On average, only 33% of BYU-Idaho students believe the news has done a good job covering the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the survey.
Even during a global pandemic, journalists continue to do field reporting. According to Press Emblem Campaign, over 600 journalists and media workers have died due to COVID-19 in 59 countries.
When thinking about if she trusts the news, Johnson said, “Yes and no. I feel like what it really boils down to is you have to do your own research ultimately and come to a decision.”
While most Americans, including BYU-I students, don’t trust the news, nearly 80% of Americans believe the news media is “crucial” or “very important” to democracy, a Gallup study reported.
According to The Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Americans believe it is possible for the public to increase its level of confidence in the news media.
76% of BYU-I students believe the news is important, and in general, BYU-I students have more trust in the news if they feel the news understands them, a survey reported.
“If we didn’t have reporters and photojournalists reporting during a pandemic, we wouldn’t know some of the things that we know,” Johnson said.
BYU-I students also tend to have greater trust in the news the more frequently they consume the news, a survey found.
“I think the reason that every day I want to get up and I want to write is I want to make a difference, and I want to help people,” Johnson said. “As long as I know that I’m doing the research and I feel confident I can put something out there and have my name attached to it, then I just need to trust that … and then people can decide for themselves if they want to trust the news or not.”