February 27, 2012
New Media Struggling with Credibility: craigslist Founder Newmark Releases Survey of Public Attitudes on Election News Coverage — Little Confidence In News Outlets Shown, Especially In Blogs and Social Media
As the nation gears up for a general election in November, and news outlets increasingly cover campaign stops and primary results, craigslist founder Craig Newmark has released the results of a survey of likely voters detailing their attitudes about what they look for in a news outlet, the trustworthiness of news outlets, and the effect of social media on news quality. Conducted as part of his craigconnects initiative (www.craigconnects.org), the survey reveals likely voters are looking for news they can trust yet divided about where they can find it. According to survey results, voters look for trustworthiness above all other characteristics in a source of election news, with almost half — 49 percent — calling it the most important quality in a news outlet, and far outstripping a news outlet's ability to be first with a story, which was most valued by only six percent of respondents. In-depth analysis was the second most-valued quality at 23 percent. In a news release, Newmark said he shares the attitudes reflected in the survey. "I'm not in the news business and I won't tell anybody how to do their job," he said. "But I am a news consumer and I'd like to know I can trust the news I'm getting." Within that context, however, there appears to be no single type of news outlet voters find most trustworthy. Of the six media types explored in the survey — cable news, network news, newspapers, talk radio, Internet new sites, and blogs and social media — the traditional news outlets scored highest in terms of perceived credibility compared to newer and less traditional media. "Most people aren't getting hard election news from social media," Newmark said. "Tech folks and early adapters are, but not most people, not yet."
Yet less than one quarter of respondents described any source of election news as very credible, according to survey results. Newspapers scored the highest with 22 percent, with television — both cable news and network news scoring the same — at 21 percent. Accounting for the survey's margin of error, all three virtually tied. Talk radio, often cited as influential on political news, scored only 13 percent. Non-traditional media, such as Internet news sites, and blogs and social media sites, scored far down the list at 13 and six percent respectively.
Still, Newmark pointed out that Interest-based efforts hold great promise for helping ensure trustworthiness and boosting public confidence in news reporting. "It's called fact-checking, and there are a lot of good people working on it," he said. "They're looking at ways to help the news media hold candidates and other public figures accountable for what they tell the public. So far it's hard, and it's not inexpensive, but it's really important."
The survey was commissioned by Newmark and conducted by the polling firm Lincoln Park Strategies. It included 1,001 interviews among likely voters nationwide. Interviews were conducted by land-line and cell phone from January 10-12, 2011. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is plus or minus 3.1 percent.