Abstract: How citizens’ perceptions of societal problems are shaped by media use has been a critical question in media effects research for decades. This study addresses a specific puzzle concerning media effects in contemporary fragmented media environments: the dual role of media trust as both (a) an antecedent variable guiding news selection and (b) a moderator variable conditioning the effects of news use on perceptions of societal problems. Building upon the differential susceptibility to media effects model, we analyze the role of media trust for citizens’ orientation towards mainstream and alternative news media—and how such usage influences perceptions of two major societal issues: health care and school. Findings from a four-wave panel survey conducted in Sweden suggest that public service and alternative news use matter for citizens’ perceptions of societal problems and that media trust influences news choices and may, partly, condition media effects.
Keywords: alternative media; media effects; media trust; media use; societal perceptions