Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 30 November 2023

Distrust Profiles: Identifying the Factors That Shape Journalism’s Credibility Crisis

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Abstract:  Trust in news is declining globally and has been for some time a phenomenon that has been amplified in the context of a global pandemic, the rise in anti-media populism, and social and political unrest. Overall, public trust in journalism remains low (44% globally), according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021. Building on a growing body of research on predictors of (dis)trust among news audiences, this study examines survey data from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021 to explore distrust profiles—comparative profiles of users based on their relative distrust in news in general, news they consume, and news accessed through digital intermediaries like social and search—across distinct news environments: India, South Korea, and the US. We conclude that, across all three countries, there are large segments who either trust everything or distrust everything, suggesting a trust polarization phenomenon. Moreover, the results identify segments of swing trusters, users who trust some news and distrust other types but do not indicate a blanket tendency to trust or distrust everything. Normative expectations about the institution of journalism (i.e., folk theories) seem to be the most powerful factors in explaining the relative likelihood of membership in all profiles, where expectations regarding impartiality, concern about fake news, and fair coverage were important indicators of (dis)trust, with varying degrees depending on the media, political, and technological contexts in which they are situated. These findings suggest that to regain trust, journalists should consider how they can change people’s folk theories when it comes to news by comprehensively taking into account the unique trajectory of a given country’s media system.

Keywords:  digital intermediaries; distrust profiles; journalism folk theories; media systems; news audiences; news distrust; swing trusters; trust polarization

Published:   Ahead of Print

Issue:   Trust, Social Cohesion, and Information Quality in Digital Journalism (Forthcoming)

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© Thomas B. Ksiazek, Su Jung Kim, Jacob L. Nelson, Ahran Park, Sushobhan Patankar, Olivia Sabalaskey, Harsh Taneja. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.