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Mississippi Journalists Discuss Trust in Media

By Makayla Steede

Journalism Student

According to a 2021 survey of 46 countries by YouGov, the United States ranked the lowest in trust in media with only 29 percent of those surveyed saying they trusted media.

For news consumers trying to find credible information and reliable reporting, Kate Holzhauser, the assistant news director of WXXV-25 in Gulfport, Mississippi, has some advice. 

Holzhauser suggests people keep several questions in mind when watching or reading the news. 

“Does the information come from a credible source,” Holzhauser said. “Is the news outlet reporting the information credible with a history of reporting the news accurately and fairly?”

University of Mississippi journalism instructor Ellen Meacham also advises news consumers to be cautious about news outlets that appear to take sides on any issues and to look for neutral reporting. 

“Do they offer more than one perspective,” Meacham said. “If there are allegations in a story, do they give the person or group a chance to respond? Do they pick a side?”

She suggests news consumers pay attention to the news outlet’s commitment to covering a topic, too.

“Seek out news organizations that have a lot of reporters on the ground, close to the story,” Meacham said. “Make sure they are doing original reporting, not just reacting to other organizations’ reporting.”

Holzhauser recommends journalists must also think carefully about the people they interview.

“Is the source credible,” Holzhauser said. “Have you dealt with them before? If not, how or why are they reaching out?”

The people journalists rely on as sources should be well-informed and knowledgeable on the topic. If it’s obvious that the source providing information is removed from the topic or potentially biased, journalists need to practice due diligence. 

“When you talk to an elected official, let’s say, you pretty much trust them to give you the correct information,” Holzhauser said. “But when it just doesn’t sound right, ask someone else who know the information. Was the person misinformed? Were they speaking with a personal agenda? Trust your gut.”

According to Meacham, one indication that a news outlet is unreliable is if they publish sensational or click-bait articles and if they focus on trivial topics. 

“Seek out not-for-profit news outlets like the BBC or PBS Newshour… because they can focus on what audiences need to know to make decisions about their lives and not just what gets clicks or web traffic,” Meacham said.  

She believes news consumers also play an important role in promoting reliable reporting. 

“Don’t view news as entertainment,” Meacham said. “Unless you are in a business that needs to monitor it hour-to-hour, check it once or twice a day and then move on. Focus on news that helps with civil engagement, not just outrage.”

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