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Comms Pros on Whether or Not their Organization Trusts the Media

“Depends on the media outlet.” wrote one respondent. “Some [media outlets] are fair; some are not.”

More communications pros say their organization trusts the media than do not. Even so, the percentage is a little under half. The rest is split among fence sitters and those that say their organizations do not trust the media.

The 5th Annual JOTW Strategic Communications Survey for 2022 asked respondents – 483 mostly senior comms pros – whether their organization trusts the integrity of reporting in traditional media outlets, the answer stacked up this way:

  • 49% agreed (39%) or strongly agreed (10%);
  • 28% neither agreed or disagree; and
  • 22% disagreed (14%) or strongly disagreed (8%) – that’s one in five.

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Why? Context behind the statistics

The survey invited respondents to share why their organization trusts, or does not trust the media, in open ended comments. This was an optional question for survey taker and 47 respondents wrote in answers. Below is a representative sample of the answers

Those that agreed or strongly agreed wrote:

  • “Depends on outlets. We are a science-based organization and stick to fact-based media.”
  • “Our regional outlets are pretty good.”
  • “We continue to benefit from responsible reporting by our local newspaper.”
  • “Traditional outlets are usually run according to ethical journalism principles.”
  • “We play heavily in industry trade media and specific financial media. Generally, we find this reporting is balanced.”
  • “With more disinformation and misinformation out there, we have seen the importance of cultivating strong relationships with traditional media.”
  • “Frankly, over the last few years, we have noticed the bias/slant in reporting has increased and the quality of reporting has gone down as turnover in local outlets has increased.”
  • “Because that’s what journalism is.  Not entertainment like the mis-dis-information mediasphere.”
  • “Journalists are, at least to some remaining degree, qualified, objective reporters of news and information.  The rest are questionable.”
  • “Most traditional media outlets still have what I would call checks and balances (e.g. editors) and try their best to get the story right.”

Those that neither agreed or disagreed:

  • “Depends on the media outlet. Some are fair; some are not.”
  • “Depends on the media source.  Some have ‘earned reliability,’ others not so much.”
  • “Organizationally, it’s trusted — from a comms standpoint, I am dubious of its quality and, increasingly, its effectiveness.”
  • “Waning trust. Reporters aren’t doing their due diligence.”

Those that disagreed or strongly disagreed:

  • “Traditional media has lost much of its “farm system” – many journalists who churn out the day-to-day material don’t have the institutional knowledge and the editorial oversight that they did even just 10 years ago. I was a journalist for 20+ years, taught at Columbia, managed several newsrooms, trained many reporters, and really only trust certain outlets and bylines now. Between the decimation of the business, and the entertainment-ification (speaking of data-driven), Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’ becomes truer every day.”
  • “Media has become increasingly activist like and if you’re with a corporate brand, you’re instantly a target.”
  • “It’s popular to distrust traditional media outlets. It may not be valid but it is popular making it challenging to step forward and say ‘I trust them.’”
  • “Lack of fairness/balance. Too much journalists’ opinions.”
  • “The prevailing cynicism of traditional media is typically met with the old memories of our executives.”
  • “They have been burned by reporters in the past and will avoid sending news to certain reporters/outlets because of past negative press.”
  • “Traditional media increasingly dispenses with claims of objectivity, and clearly stakes a political position in story selection and tone of coverage. Regardless of what ‘side’ they are on, traditional media seems to believe it’s always on the right side.”
  • “They don’t report facts. Many are now citing other media as a source when there isn’t an actual source.”

The effects of trust on comms

Whether you agree with the views above or not, this will have an effect on the job of a professional communicator. It’s adding to the list of responsibilities.

Indeed, it’s not just the reporting we should worry about – but the information we share that goes into any possible reporting, as Karen Swim, a PR, marketing and social media consultant, Words For Hire, LLC and President of Solo PR Pro – and a contributor to the survey analysis – pointed out:

“Mis, mal and disinformation is one of the biggest threats to our society. This goes beyond the political realm but undermines trust in what people read, see and hear from any organized body, including our organizations.

Public Relations professionals must not only guard against mis, mal and disinformation about their companies or clients but part of the solution to stem the tide. It means that we need to be vigilant about fact checking and digging deeper into the information we share. It also means learning new skills, such as identifying deep fakes. This is a growing and scary problem.”

About the JOTW Strategic Comms Survey

This survey was a joint effort between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media, LLC. Subscribers to both organizations were solicited to take the survey through mentions in the weekly newsletter, dedicated email requests and social media.

Gini Dietrich and Karen Swim also solicited respondents from their respective communities at Spin Sucks and Solo PR Pro. In total 483 respondents took the survey online, using Survey Monkey, from Friday, May 6, 2022, until June 14, 2022.

Most are based in the U.S. (76%) and 70% have 11 or more years of experience. Sixty percent are in-house communicators; another 15% work for agencies and 25% are self-employed as consultants or freelancers. Detailed demographics are included in the full report.

The full report is freely available on SlideShare: The 5th Annual JOTW Strategic Communications Survey for 2022 and can be viewed or downloaded without registration. A copy has also been embedded below for easy viewing. Finally, here is a PDF copy of the report for anyone that prefers that format.

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