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Reviving Trust in Journalism: Lessons from The Global Media Forum 2024

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The Digital News Report 2024 released midway through the first day of the Global Media Forum 2024 in Bonn, highlighted a common sentiment among attendees: trust in news is at an all-time low. Although stable, trust levels remain even lower than during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
However, Liz Shoo emphasized at the conference's start that the GMF24 focus is "10% on problems, 90% on solutions." So, I asked myself: what solutions to low reader trust will I find in these conference rooms?
 
Global Media Forum 2024 in Bonn, Germany
 
 

"We Start With Local Journalism"

Natália Leal, CEO at Lupa, highlighted local journalism as a key to rebuilding trust. People are more likely to trust news if they feel a connection to it. While building new audiences can be challenging today, strengthening local journalism is a good starting point for increasing overall trust in journalism. Bringing news closer to communities increases engagement and helps them realize its importance.
 

This sense of community is something that helps us to reestablish the value of truth and the value of journalism. 

- Natália Leal, CEO at Lupa

Globally, the Digital News Report 2024 revealed gaps in local news coverage in some countries. Yet, most survey respondents consider local and international news to be the most important.

 

What About Gen Z?

Young people often tune out the news because they feel disconnected from it. Nic Newsman, Senior Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, argued they're still interested in news. For example, they turn to traditional media during major events. However, they want news presented differently.  Newsrooms don't need to simplify content but should present it in a more informal and conversational way.
 

It's all about taking the news, breaking it down and telling the people what the news means for their daily lives in a more informal tone of voice.

- Johanna Rüdiger, Head of Social Media Strategy for DW's Culture and Documentaries department

A practical example is the UseTheNews initiative. Rieke Smit, Editor on Duty of Social News Daily, explained how they create short, engaging TikTok videos to reach younger audiences. Other formats include street interviews, mini-tutorials, skits, and games, all designed to help Gen Z understand the relevance of news to their lives. This approach aligns with Newman's suggestion to address the broader needs of young audiences beyond just the "update me" need - offering explanations, hope, and inspiration.

 

Using AI in News

The role of AI in journalism was a recurring theme throughout the conference. Nic Newman mentioned that AI technology only amplifies distrust among young people. They worry about their ability to discern truth from fakes, contributing to their skepticism about news overall. This distrust is shared among other generations as well, according to the Digital News Report 2024. However, audiences are primarily concerned with specific AI applications. As Ranty Islam, Professor of Digital Journalism at the Media University of Applied Sciences, noted, while using AI "here and there" to create text might be acceptable, generating images and videos with AI is a no-go for audiences. 
 
The consensus was that AI can significantly aid newsrooms, especially with behind-the-scenes tasks that free up journalists for more essential work. Provided that journalists don't rely too heavily on AI.
 

If we let us help by AI in all these tedious, gritty works, our colleagues will have more time to go talk to people and listen to people.

- Donata Dröge, Senior Project Manager at RTL News

Another intriguing idea was using AI to train journalists rather than the other way around. As Ranty Islam proposed, AI can help reporters identify weak spots in their reporting, gaps in arguments, and ways to improve articles, whether by exploring new angles or refining their language.

 

"How Not to Risk Audience Trust While Using AI?"

When asked this question, Ranty Islam had a simple answer: "Transparency." Being open about how AI models are used and trained and transparent about internal newsroom processes is essential to maintaining audience trust while producing news better and faster. In fact, the Digital News Report 2024 found that transparency about how news is made is the most significant factor influencing which news outlets people trust.
 
For example, RTL News includes a general disclaimer on its website about its use of AI. Since it's complicated to measure AI use in each article, they choose to provide one comprehensive statement rather than indicating AI involvement in each individual piece.

 

Looking Ahead

The GMF24 proved to be a valuable source of solutions for the media industry grappling with uncertainty, polarization, and crises. Over these two days, we’ve seen many inspirational examples of media organizations strengthening their relationships with audiences. By shifting away from traditional media approaches and prioritizing reader needs, placing them at the centre of news coverage while ensuring transparency, news outlets can win back the trust of their readers. As for how effective these approaches have been for journalists, I look forward to discussing again next year at GMF25. I'll keep you updated!
 
This blog post was composed by one of our Marketing team members, Anna Hlazunova. Thanks so much for sharing your insights!  
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