“It’s a battle you are never going to win”: Perspectives from journalists in four countries on how digital media platforms undermine trust in news

Journalists at the newsroom of 'Folha de S. Paulo' newspaper. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Journalists at the newsroom of 'Folha de S. Paulo' newspaper. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Published in Journalism Studies

Abstract: The growing prominence of platforms in news consumption has raised scholarly concerns about potential impacts on trust in news, which has declined in many countries. However, less is known about how journalists themselves perceive this relationship, which matters for understanding how they use these technologies. In this paper, we draw on 85 interviews with news workers from four countries in both the Global North and South to examine journalists’ narratives—as metajournalistic discourse—about how platforms impact trust in news. We find that practitioners across all environments express mostly critical ideas about platforms vis-à-vis trust on two different levels. First, they describ platforms as disruptive to journalistic practices in ways that strain traditional norms on which trust is based. Second, they discuss platforms as altering the contexts in which journalistic texts and discourses about journalism circulate, weakening the profession’s authority. Despite these reservations, most continue relying on platforms to reach audiences, highlighting the complex choices they must make in an increasingly platform-dominated media environment. As discourses connecting journalistic practice and meaning, these narratives speak to tensions within journalism as a profession around appropriate norms and practices, and challenges to the profession’s claims to authority.