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Why is trust in NZ media plummeting?

As noted in yesterday’s editorial, the past week has been a rough one for the NZ media sector, including as it did TVNZ’s announcement that it’s cancelling long-running shows [‘Fair Go’ and ‘Sunday’] and two news bulletins [‘Midday’ and ‘Tonight’], and the confirmation that Newshub – TVNZ’s only real competitor in television news – is being canned completely come July.

But surely the biggest blow to any sense of the ongoing sustainability of local media – as noted in Tuesday’s editorial – was Monday’s release of the annual AUT Trust in News survey.

Now in its fifth year, the survey’s latest instalment shows that New Zealanders’ trust in the news in general has plummeted a staggering 20 per cent since 2020.

What’s worse, there wasn’t exactly a great deal of trust back in 2020, when a slim majority of Kiwis – just 53 per cent – felt they could have confidence in media reports.

Now, that figure sits at a lamentable one-third of the population, which is lower than the majority of comparable countries.

The most trusted brand is the independent Otago Daily Times, but one suspects its owners haven’t been dancing a jig of jubilation at the placing, given they earned it with a score of five on a scale of one to 10 [one being ‘not at all trustworthy’ and 10 being ‘completely trustworthy’].

So what’s behind the erosion of the NZ public’s trust in their media outlets?

The authors of the survey report don’t have any emphatic answers, although they note that “Those who say they don’t trust and/or avoid the news are most concerned about the negativity of news, including its impact on their mental health, and what they perceive as political bias and opinion masquerading as news.”

They are much clearer about the need for “journalists and media companies … to rebuild that trust” via forming “relationships with their audiences and with communities”, although they’re not specific about what that would look like in practice.

Thus far there hasn’t been a great deal of public comment from media company leaders about how they plan to reverse this decline.

Perhaps they might start with reading a just published essay by Uri Berliner, titled ‘I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust’ [NPR equals National Public Radio, which is basically the equivalent of RNZ, and like NZ media, it’s recently experienced a collapse in audience trust].

Available online, the opinion piece’s basic point is succinctly summarised in its introduction: “the network lost its way when it started telling listeners how to think”.

According to Berliner, the outlet adopting ‘advocacy’ on certain issues over the traditional journalistic approach of ‘just the facts, ma’am’ is its cardinal sin, and he offers the way it approached its coverage of the presidency of Donald Trump – with the assumption that he could do no right – as an example of what served as an accelerant for its audience’s loss of trust. [Perhaps you can think of analogous local examples.]

“With declining ratings, sorry levels of trust, and an audience that has become less diverse over time, the trajectory for NPR is not promising,” Berliner concludes.

“Two paths seem clear. We can keep doing what we’re doing, hoping it will all work out. Or we could start over, with the basic building blocks of journalism.”

The latter seems like a sound approach that could be equally applicable here.


  1. To bloody one sided journalists and to many people thinking 🤔 Hollywood is real 🤔 and pigs 🐖 can fly 🪰 🤔 😳. Newsmedia is 99% rubbish and lies 🙄 they where used by the leftist government and know paying the price for it 🙄.

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