The Digital News Report 2022 released this week by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University shows that interest and trust in the news is declining almost everywhere. Interest has fallen from 63 percent in 2017 to 51 percent in 2022, and just over four out of every 10 people trust most of the news most of the time. Nearly 38 percent of the news consumers are also selectively avoiding news, especially about politics and the Covid pandemic, up from 29 percent in 2017.
In India, among English-speaking online news consumers, overall trust in the news has marginally improved over the past year but, at 41 percent, it’s still just shy of the global average.
To discuss the report’s findings and what they mean for the news industry, Newslaundry and the Reuters Institute organised a panel discussion with Rasmus Kleis Nielsen of the Reuters Institute, Ritu Kapur of the Quint, Meena Kotwal of the Mooknayak, Pooja Pande of Khabar Lahariya, and Ritika Chopra of the Indian Express. The discussion was moderated by Manisha Pande, executive editor of Newslaundry.
After Nielsen presented the key conclusions of the report and its takeaways for the Indian market, the panel discussed the various themes covered by the study such as trust, political and business influence on the media and lack of representation in mainstream Indian newsrooms.
The report notes that most of the prominent journalists in the United States and the United Kingdom are white males. In this context, Kotwal pointed out that a similar study on caste representation in India would lead to “dangerous” results. “Indian newsrooms are dominated by the Savarnas,” she said, referring to the historically privileged upper caste Hindus. “There is close to no representation for marginalised castes in any editorial positions or in digital journalism”.
In the context of the report’s finding that online media are a source of news for some 84 percent of Indian consumers, the panellists discussed news consumption via video in particular. “We largely do ground reports, not so much of opinion,” said Kapur, adding that the reception for video content has been positive, evidently because it offers “deeper engagement and informed commenting.”
Another format that audiences have responded to, Chopra pointed out, is where news is contextualised and presented with reference to the reader. “As opposed to just telling people what's happening, try and put that in context. Why it is happening and what it could mean for the reader,” she said.
The session concluded with a discussion on trust in the news and opacity in media and media ownership. The need for frameworks that require transparent disclosure of information about editorial decisions was strongly felt.