“What we have seen is a drop in trust, particularly in relation to news found on social media and on search,” Dr Fisher said.
“But consistently over the five years it also very much does depend on the source of news you use and those who rely on traditional — offline platforms, TV, newspapers — they have higher trust in news generally than people who rely on online sources,” she said. “That hasn’t shifted.”
Those born from 1997 onwards and from 1981 to 1996 were the most likely to use social media as their main source of news, with 47 per cent of Gen Z and 33 per cent of Gen Y relying on these platforms.
20 per cent of people are deciding not to share a post that they think is dubious, it’s a shame the other 80 per cent aren’t making the same decision
University of Canberra assistant professor of communication and journalism, Caroline Fisher
More than half of Baby Boomers and those above 73 years old watched television as their main source of news compared to a quarter of the youngest generations and 42 per cent overall.
Use of Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as a news source declined slightly from 2017 to 2019, coinciding with a decision by Facebook last year to make posts from friends and family rank higher in the news feed.
But Google’s YouTube soared in popularity from 8 per cent in 2017 to 19 per cent of people surveyed this year now using the video platform as a source of news. Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook’s Instagram were used slightly more over the two year period.
“YouTube is just going off as a news source,” Dr Fisher said.
“We are still concerned about fake news … We still have high concerns than the global average about what’s real or fake on the internet,” she said.
The majority of people surveyed were not doing anything to ensure they weren’t consuming fake news, with a third engaging in some sort of fact-checking behaviour such as checking stories against other news sources.
“20 per cent of people are deciding not to share a post that they think is dubious, it’s a shame the other 80 per cent aren’t making the same decision,” she said.
Australians were also more likely to say the news helped them understand what was going on around the world at 57 per cent compared to a 51 per cent international average and were slightly more willing to pay for news on average.
However, the majority did not agree that the news media scrutinises the powerful or was relevant for people.
At a panel to launch the report, ABC head of news Gaven Morris said the report suggested the media was not delving as deeply as audiences wanted into news issues and providing insights.
“What the report says to me is you’re seeing this increasing trend for there being a lot of chaff out there in terms of there being many sources of information coming at you … all at once and a lot of media consumers are saying ‘how do I find meaning out of that?’,” Mr Morris said.
“It’s almost as if there is so much competition now for eyeballs or ears in the media context that we’re not necessarily being very helpful to news consumers in finding the stuff that’s meaningful.”
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.