Breaking the Spell of Social Media

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A new survey suggests both trust and mistrust in the mainstream media have increased. This polarization among consumers can be attributed to a host of factors, including an increase in social media, online news sources and a general lack of understanding of how journalism works.

  • Facts


    • A new survey suggests 24 percent of Germans do not trust mainstream news sources, up from just 9 percent nine years ago.
    • However, the same survey showed a growing majority of Germans have expressed confidence in major newspapers and publicly owned German television stations.
    • 88 percent of Germans support voluntary measures against fake news, including labeling dubious reports on social networks “suspicious.”
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First Draft Coalition
As a recent study has shown consumers have difficulty distinguishing between reliable and unreliable news sources. Photo: Monika Skolimowska/DPA

It seems like the news media have never been as hated or as mistrusted as they are today. Populist parties decry the mainstream media as liars and stooges, while social media seethes with conspiracy theories and angry accusations. “Fake news” has emerged both as a result and a cause – one serious enough for social networks and political parties to take urgent steps to combat.

But a new study from the University of Mainz, led by professors Oliver Quiring and Tanjev Schultz, suggests things are not so simple. While the proportion of Germans saying they had no trust in the media has tripled since 2008, soaring to some 24 percent, around 40 percent of respondents said they had much or complete confidence in the media, up from 29 percent in 2008.

The German weekly, Die Zeit, a sister publication to Handelsblatt, interviewed Mr. Quiring and Mr. Schultz to find out more about the current state of trust in the media today.

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