In the third week of January 2017, several anti-mainstream media websites gleefully reported an international study about Indian media – Our media stands second worldwide among the least trusted by its citizens.
Nagpur Today’s headline read, ‘Indian Media is most corrupt with no Ethics and Responsibility: Edelman Report”.
Aajkiawaaj said that, ‘Shocking “Indian Media 2nd Most Untrusted Institution”. Reports World Economic Forum!’
This was taken forward by Dailyhunt.
Troll Indian Politics did not want to miss a chance and carried forward the same headline.
Another website, Postcard News dramatic headline said, “Must Read! World Economic Forum releases survey on Indian media, the results are shameful!”
Postcard and Troll India Politics had cited the following tweet of World Economic Forum which was retweeted 358 times.
The link used in the tweet directs us to an article published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with global news website, Quartz, owned by Atlantic Media. You can also take a look at the original article by Quartz, headlined “The results are in: Nobody trusts anyone anymore”.
Firstly, while some of these websites have attributed the survey to The World Economic Forum, the actual report was neither commissioned nor released by them. But it is an article published on their website that has become the source for all the stories published out of India.
The Quartz story had all the information correct except for one minor detail that found a mention in their table posted in the story (the table was also shared by The World Economic Forum as shown in the tweet above).
Why is Boom sure that Quartz got the Indian data wrong? It is because they traced it back to the source of the data, The 2017 Edelman Global Trust Barometer. It is an online survey that covered 28 countries measuring their trust in the four institutions of government, business, NGO and media in doing what is right.
The global sample size was 38,400 with around 1400 netizens from each country. The sample included both general online population and the informed public (people who are college educated, have high income and report higher media consumption).
Boom contacted Jason Karaian, senior Europe Correspondent of Quartz who wrote this story, but we are yet to hear from him.
Surprise! India trusts its media
The report shows that despite trust in media hitting an all-time low of 43% globally; India was among the three countries in which media was trusted. The other countries are China and Indonesia. Moreover, trust in Indian media has increased 3% from 2016 to 66% in 2017. It has also reported 6 points and 4 points increase in trust in Indian traditional and online media, respectively.
The report said:
“This increased trust in media in general is probably because of the broad satisfaction with standards in Indian media. And because the media strike the right balance for supporting the freedom of speech, in most case, and for the societal issues… Add to it the significant growth across India in mobile, internet penetration, social platforms and the use of apps and tools.”
But while some of the above mentioned websites and its reporting can be discounted, it is surprising that Yahoo Finance also fell for this fake news as recently as March 7. This story headlined “Fake News: India ranked No 2 in lack of credibility” goes on to preach the value of good journalism.
Sample this from their story:
“The holy tenets of journalism – attribution and reliability of sources, and objective neutrality – are sorely missing from the Indian news space, where accuracy is often sacrificed at the altar of getting it out there first.”
Okay… we got it.
Fake news era
Keeping aside the matter of credibility of the survey itself and the methodology followed, the fact that new age digital outfits picked up the story without checking the original source shows how fake news is published and circulated. Interestingly, none of the mainstream media outlets picked up the story. This suggests that they must have checked the original source and discounted the fake news circulating through social media – a sign of good journalism.
The two main pillars of good journalism, checking facts and reporting the truth have both been compromised by these websites in their hurry to beat mainstream media. But in today’s post-truth world, the damage has already been done with such stories having a life of its own – circulating through WhatsApp groups and social media.
This article first appeared on Boom.