Report shows major drop in media trust in the past five years

The authors of a new report showing a major loss of trust in the New Zealand news media say it's time for news organisations to "look in the mirror".

Just a third of Kiwis now say they trust the news - down 20 percent in the past five years.

And the researchers say the news media needs to work out how to rebuild public understanding of their role.

Newshub asked about a dozen Aucklanders if they trust the news, and there were a handful who said yes. But that was far from the common response.

Newshub's anecdotal findings are backed up by the fifth annual report published by AUT's research centre for journalism, media and democracy.

"The media does need to look in the mirror now," report author Greg Treadwell said.

"Not that I think it's lost its purpose, not that I think it's lost its integrity, but it's certainly lost its audience."

Since 2020, trust in the New Zealand news media has dropped by a whopping 20 percent, and nearly half of that trust was lost in the last year.

"In the five years we've been doing it, trust in the news in New Zealand has declined at a faster rate than other countries.

"We've gone from the top of the bunch of the comparable countries to very near the bottom."

The authors say the reasons are complex but some are easy to identify - the pandemic and subsequent loss of trust in government spilled into a mistrust of all providers of information.

Audiences are also turned off by the mixing of opinion with news, Treadwell said.

"That doesn't mean the media doesn't have a right to its views or that opinion columns aren't useful, but the audience doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference and thinks it's being preached at."

There was also mistrust over media using the Government-provided Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF) during the hard times of the pandemic, a mistrust spurred on by Winston Peters who called it "state-funded bribery".

Epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker said the mainstream media plays an essential role in conveying information during crises, like a pandemic.

"It's still the best place to get fact-based and science-based information," Dr Baker said.

"The alternative is far, far worse - that is everyone does their own research on social media."