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New Working Paper: Trust and Journalism in a Digital Environment

The telephone-hacking scandal in the UK, the NSA activities in the US and in several other countries disclosed by Edward Snowden, the tapping of the telephone of the German Chancellor have led to serious crises of trust. The cases show that trust can easily turn into distrust. News media play an important role in the process of creating trust and distrust simultaneously. Journalism is capable of building trust in organisations, institutions and individuals. On the one hand, journalism is able to reveal an impression of a person or organisation as trustworthy or not by pointing at malfunctions and violation of norms. On the other hand, journalists, news media organisations and journalism as a social institution of our modern society need trust in order to fulfil their respective tasks.

The complex relationship between trust and journalism is examined in the working paper Trust and Journalism in a Digital Environment by Bernd Blöbaum (visiting fellow at RISJ in 2013). The paper describes trust as a social phenomenon of modern society and examines journalism's contribution to the creation of trust for other social fields such as politics, economy, science and sport, for organisations and for individuals (trust through journalism). It also focuses on the various conditions that influence recipient's trust in journalism and news media. Public trust in journalism is described as both a product of a historical process and of individual socialisation. Without a doubt, digitalisation is a major challenge for journalists and journalism. The paper discusses numerous features of trust building in a digital environment. It stresses journalism's capacity to develop new means, helping to obtain and maintain its role as a trustworthy institution.