The Trust Gap: Young People's Tactics for Assessing the Reliability of Political News

Joelle Swart*, Marcel Broersma

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    In theories about journalism's democratic remit, trust is generally regarded as a prerequisite for public connection: only when citizens believe the news, they will engage with it and act upon it to perform their citizenship. Trust seems even more important in today's digital society, where the destabilization of journalism institutions and proliferation of sources make the media ecology increasingly complex to navigate. This paper challenges such conceptualizations of media trust rooted in rationality and deliberateness. Based on two series of semistructured interviews with fifty-five young people from ten nationalities living in the Netherlands, conducted in 2016 and 2017, we develop a taxonomy of people's tactics when assessing the reliability of news. We explore what this means for how they value news and how such judgments, drawing on explicit and tacit knowledge, impact their news use. Rather than critically evaluating news through comparing and checking sources, users often employ more pragmatic shortcuts to approximate the trustworthiness of news, including affective and intuitive tactics rooted in tacit knowledge. Consequently, we argue that to fully understand how users deal with the complexity of trust in digital environments, we should not start from ideals of informed citizenship, but from people's actual practices and experiences instead.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)396-416
    Number of pages21
    JournalThe International Journal of Press/Politics
    Volume27
    Issue number2
    Early online date12-Apr-2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Apr-2022

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