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Two tragic stories have built our trust in local news sources


Australians flocked to news services as the nation grappled with the bushfires and then the coronavirus pandemic.

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The latest Digital News Report released on Tuesday found trust in news remained low during the fires, but rose during the outbreak.

Local news was more trusted and valued as a result of the disasters, with more than three in four news consumers saying they’d miss their local paper or radio if it shut down.

Among Australian news consumers, 56 per cent were heavy users during the bushfires, rising to 70 per cent at the peak of the pandemic.

The study looked at global news habits, surveying Australian users during the bushfires in January and February and again in April after the impact of the virus.

Lead researcher Dr Sora Park, from the University of Canberra, said the pandemic had led to coverage more people could relate to rather than the usual political coverage.

Women and younger Australians in particular increased their news consumption the most.

“We can infer that they’re not getting the news they want at the moment,” Park told AAP.

“Relevance to their own everyday lives is very important. It’s not just the information but it’s the way it’s presented.”

Park said if she was a news editor she’d be focusing on getting more unique content to readers.

Despite a shrinking industry, Park said people still wanted the news.

“It’s just that you need to find a sustainable business model,” she said.

Australians on low incomes were the most reliant on print and TV media, while high income earners went to social media groups or friends for their news.

But while news subscription rates have doubled since 2016, only 14 per cent of news consumers say they pay for it.

The generation most likely to pay for news covered 23 to 38 year olds, with under-22s and Baby Boomers the least likely.

Nearly half of consumers got their news via television throughout the pandemic, with a decline in print and radio users.

More than half of news consumers say impartiality was important to them, with the same proportion also calling on journalists to report on politicians’ lies.

Australian news consumers were more than twice as likely to deny climate change than the global average.

Commercial AM radio listeners and viewers of Sky News were the least likely to be concerned by climate change than other news consumers.

The report is part of a global research project coordinated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.


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