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Report finds newspapers less trusted than banks

9 February 2009

A new report has found that public has a lower level of trust in UK national newspapers than banks. The A More Accountable Press report strongly backs up the NUJ's concerns at the effect of industry cutbacks on standards of journalism.

The report was published by the Media Standards Trust and includes stark statistical information to prove the decline in public confidence in the UK national press.

The team of independent experts, who wrote the report, including the editor-in-chief of the Independent, conclude that "standards of accuracy and responsibility are falling faster than ever in an increasingly desperate financial atmosphere, and with them the respect of both public and government."

A survey of more than 2,000 people showed that:

  • only seven per cent trusted UK national newspapers to behave responsibly – a level of trust lower than for the banks, it says;
  • the number who said they trusted upmarket papers has fallen from 65 per cent five years ago to 43 per cent now;
  • those who found mid-market papers credible fell from 36 per cent to 18 per cent;
  • 75 per cent believed newspapers printed stories in spite of knowing them to be untrue. A similar proportion said editors could not be trusted to ensure their staff acted in the public interest.

More than 70 per cent of respondents believed the government should intervene to prevent intrusion into private lives and make newspapers correct inaccuracies. The report says that the system of newspaper self-regulation, operated by the Press Complaints Commission, is "unsustainable"; indeed, it says an "inadequate" PCC has "contributed to a decline in public trust in the press."

The NUJ supports the concept of self-regulation of the press, but has been fiercely critical of the way in which the PCC operates.

The report echoes the NUJ's argument that cuts in newsroom staffing and spending is having a catastrophic effect on journalism. In particular, the reduction in the numbers of sub-editors has led to greater pressures and a rising level of inaccuracy in the press.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"For years, we've been highlighting the impact on our profession of cutbacks that are all about the pursuit of big profits. Our members are fed up with the frustration of not having the time they need to do their jobs. They take great pride in their work so it hurts when management cuts undermine the job they do."

Commenting on calls to overhaul the PCC, Jeremy Dear added:

"Self-regulation can work, but the current model isn't up to the task. As a first step, the government could bring the PCC under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act so that at least some of its workings are put under greater public scrutiny."

Tags: , media standards trust, ethics, regulation, pcc, newspapers, quality journalism, cuts, subeditors, foi