A BBC journalist’s view of the Trust Barometer

Following my blog post a few days ago about the Edelman Trust Barometer, I’m delighted to welcome Adam Kirtley, BBC journalist and media coach and consultant back to my blog to share his view.

He got in touch to share his view with my readers, so I’ll hand you over to Adam…

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer – is the media dead and why what it says is encouraging!

Rachel Miller of All Things IC has written a brilliant article in response to the Edelman 2018 Trust Barometer, which is itself one of the most trusted sources of information about how communicators are engaging with the world.

On the face of it the results look rather worrying. There is a huge loss of trust in the media, and in peer-to-peer communications.

Oh dear you may think, that’s huge. We don’t trust our news sources any more, and having been a beacon of trust, we don’t even trust each other now!

Edelman, as Rachel Miller says in her article, calls this the fourth wave of the trust tsunami. (You can learn about the other three in Rachel’s article). It is all about the “rise in disinformation”.  That’s “fake news” to you and me!  And it is rife.

Social media is getting it in the neck for failing to differentiate between truth and fiction, and isn’t policing content enough. 70% of respondents to the Edelman survey said that social media has lost public trust, allows too much extremist material and “news” that isn’t real news.

Conversely trust has increased markedly in “expertise”, with technical and academic experts leading the way. Even previously beleaguered CEOs are now seen as a potential source of decent and trustworthy information, with trust up from 37 to 44 per cent.

Now for me, what is also very heartening, as a journalist for the BBC for some 30 plus years, is that trust in journalists is up a healthy 12 per cent to 39% which isn’t far behind CEOs up 7% to 44%.

What encourages me here is that the “free for all” in information, or more crudely, “mis-information” may be coming to an end as people get fed up of reading things that are not true, and put there for the benefit of the writer.  Whether it be political activists with a certain agenda, or governments using “bots” to appear like real Tweets, perhaps society is cottoning onto the fact that “real facts” are important.

And that is why I am encouraged. There is a real thirst for “TRUTH” out there and it is organisations, dare I say it, like the BBC that can provide that.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Why fake news matters and what you can do.

I was always trained to be “right” and not “first”, to have at least two sources before reporting anything, and to have peers read and correct any copy.

Now I am not saying that always happens, and I’m not saying the BBC or anyone else in broadcasting is perfect, far from it, but at least the BBC, SKY, NBC, ABC etc. TRY to tell it as it is.

In newspapers although there can be political slants and opinion, there is also a professional gathering of facts.

Yes they may put different interpretations on those facts, but they are at least facts. And there are brilliant online blogging sites and sources such as the Huffington Post doing sterling work.

How to tell the difference?
However, worryingly in the Edelman survey, 63% of people said they didn’t know how to tell good journalism from rumour, nor if news actually came from a respected organisation. That needs addressing. Branding must be clear, copyright vehemently policed and social media platforms exploited.

Proper journalism is not cheap, and needs proper funding.
Advertising is vital and for the BBC proper funding equally so to ensure resources are there to tell the truth and investigate stories properly.

Ironically social media platforms are asking news organisations, and respected sites such as Mumsnet and Huffington Post to pay for their platforms.

On a positive note, as people turn to proper news organisations again, there seems to be investment in journalism.  The Washington Post added dozens of journalists last year, up 8%, with breaking news and social media video being heavily invested in.

Myth busting
The BBC has a “myth buster” department which investigates false news.  Here is just one example of its excellent work.


Did President Trump actually say ‘Africans are lazy fools only good at eating, lovemaking and thuggery’?

“According to fact-checking website Snopes this claim was first posted on 25 October 2015 on Politica, a fake news website. It was later picked up by blogs and other fake and satirical news websites on the continent.”

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Why fake news matters and what you can do.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: The death of patience – why you need to pause.

So what about all of you in internal comms. What does this mean for you?
Well, as I always say in my media coaching classes, you have to have an honest organisation, whose key messages are based on facts.

You must have a CEO and board who espouse integrity and transparency.  That doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone everything and air your dirty washing in public, of course not.  However be prepared to be questioned and make sure you have credible answers.

Don’t let yourself be caught out on equal pay or other hot issues, or try to cover up mistakes.

On a positive note, Edelman’s survey says that we are needing more experts as they are trusted by a public hungry for truth.

That’s a great opportunity for you to nurture those experts, and hand them over to your external comms/PR people to get them out there in the trusted media.

Do make sure they are media trained though!  I would say that wouldn’t I?

So don’t be downhearted by this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer. We have had a media free for all, where anything goes, everything went, along with the truth.

It would appear now that WE ALL WANT THE TRUTH. And you, and I, and many good and honest bloggers and opinion formers and experts, are just the people to deliver it.

So you may find this very strange, but I actually find all of this quite encouraging!

Post author: Adam Kirtley.

Thank you for sharing your personal views Adam. What do you think about what you’ve read? As ever you’re welcome to comment below. You can find Adam on Twitter @messagemanadam and check out his website.

Adam wrote for my blog back in 2016: A journalist’s view of internal vs external comms.

First published on the All Things IC blog 24 January 2018.

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