In such a context, the study aims to answer the following questions: (1) How much do citizens trust journalists? and (2) How do their media consumption repertoires influence their perceptions? Considering trust in journalists makes it possible to capture citizens’ judgements regarding the ability of the journalistic professional system to still perform a public service in contemporary societies.
Media trust is one of the most debated issues in political communication. Nevertheless, it represents a concept that has required continuous refinement from a methodological and empirical point of view (Strömbäck et al., 2020). In the contemporary high choice political information environment (Van Aelst et al., 2017), characterised by the construction of highly personalised media experiences (Castro et al., 2021), it is even more crucial to understand how trust changes with respect to citizens’ media repertoires.
This contribution aims to study a neglected issue regarding media trust: trust that people maintain toward journalists (i.e. those that are professionally trained to gather, process, and distribute information of public relevance). However, the overall scenario has been rapidly changed and a wide variety of other actors, professional and non-professional, including citizens themselves, perform similar actions within increasingly crowded information ecologies (Lewis, 2012; Carlson & Lewis, 2015). In such a context, the study aims to answer the following questions: (1) How much do citizens trust journalists? and (2) How do their media consumption repertoires influence their perceptions? Considering trust in journalists makes it possible to capture citizens’ judgements regarding the ability of the journalistic professional system to still perform a public service in contemporary societies.
The study presents the results of a CAWI survey to a representative sample (n=1563) of the Italian population of Internet users in the age range 18–74, interviewed in the second half of May 2020. This was a crucial context to study trust in journalists because the first mass lock-down following the COVID-19 pandemic just ended, then citizens needed to find information and to develop new (or consolidate old) relationships of trust with information sources (Scaglioni & Sfardini, 2021). At the same time, the cacophony of voices, as well as the centrality assumed in the communication space by doctors, scientists, and others non-journalistic actors, has created a context capable of significantly impacting trust patterns in the traditional “expert mediators” of information.
This research considers trust in journalists as an indicator of potential deliberative communication. The higher the trust, the more citizens feel as aware and informed participants of the public debate. The ways how the determinants of this trust operate indicate what are the risks that hinder the realization of the deliberative communication and the opportunities that are reserved for it. The main results emerging from the estimated multivariate models show that there is a negative correlation between the use of social media for information on matters of public importance and trust in journalists. In addition, those who use politicians’ accounts as a privileged source of information on social media have lower trust in journalists. Among other issues, these results pose one of the most frequent questions concerning political communication, i.e. which role social media are playing within the political communication environment.