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The positive shift in media trust, plus climbing vaccination rates, tells the Globe's public editor, that the vast majority of the public appreciates factual science-based reporting.Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Some good news about the media this month: In its tenth year, a report from the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford found more readers and viewers trusted the media, based on polling data from 46 markets (not Canada).

Senior research associate Nic Newman wrote in his summary: ”Trust in the news has grown, on average, by six percentage points in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – with 44 per cent of our total sample saying they trust most news most of the time. This reverses, to some extent, recent falls in average trust – bringing levels back to those of 2018. Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (65 per cent), and the USA now has the lowest levels (29 per cent) in our survey.”

I found it heartening that people around the world understand the public service value of news, which currently is largely focused on giving readers the evolving science on COVID-19 and the vaccines. This positive shift in media trust, plus climbing vaccination rates, tells me that despite the few throwing despicable hate and vitriol at health care workers, politicians and journalists (especially those of colour and women), the vast majority of the public appreciates factual science-based reporting. (Though we do see trust levels are still mired in the mud in the United States.)

I think a big reason for this positive shift is that journalists, even though some have worked in a specialty such as health reporting for years, know they aren’t the experts and seek out the most knowledgeable people they can find. That push for science and public health shines through.

The report notes that: “this crisis has also shown the value of accurate and reliable information at a time when lives are at stake. In many countries we see audiences turning to trusted brands – in addition to ascribing a greater confidence in the media in general. The gap between the ‘best and the rest’ has grown, as has the trust gap between the news media and social media.”

That gap was exposed in a recent Globe and Mail feature about people who were hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but recently went ahead.

One woman, Caroline Hartley, said while she heard positive things about the COVID-19 vaccine from the AM radio station she listened to, her Facebook feed was crowded with shared misinformation about its effectiveness. She said her husband’s friends were sharing all kinds of nonsense. But ultimately she was able to discern which information to trust.

Another, Irene Brucculeri, saw friends getting the disease and so began reading more about COVID-19 in the press. Eventually, she got the vaccine, believing it to be safe and effective.

To build on this greater openness, we must do a better job explaining how the media works. Respondents who said they generally trust the news media also said it’s important to know about reporters’ expertise.

The Globe includes bio info on opinion pieces by outside contributors, but perhaps it should be included on major news articles and staff columns as well. Readers are able to see Globe staff bios by clicking on hyperlinked bylines on the website.

And while The Globe has published background pieces on how major stories came about, such as this one by Tom Cardoso on how he investigated bias in Canada’s prison system, I, for one, would like to see more of these.

The report isn’t full of good news of course. It also noted “worrying inequalities in both consumption and trust – with the young, women, people from ethnic minorities and political partisans often feeling less fairly represented by the media.”

It’s a good reminder that we in the media have room to improve in increasing the trust of readers and consumers.

Turning to another issue, I’ve had a number of readers complain about too much front page/main news coverage of the Rogers saga, rather than keeping it on the business pages.

This is a common complaint on any breaking news event where some readers aren’t invested while others read every word. In this case, Rogers is not only an important telecom company in Canada, it’s a consumer company. The family is well known and the arc of what happens to family businesses is a fascinating one to many, hence the comparisons to the series Succession or Game of Thrones.

The Globe has published many exclusives, which have given a rare insider look at a business in the midst of a power struggle. It’s also a major news story, not a just business one, and it is far from over. Notably, in the list of trending articles on The Globe homepage in the mornings lately, Rogers stories are inevitably in the top five.

Any thoughts on these or other issues, please e-mail me at publiceditor@globeandmail.com.

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