The Reuters Institute recently reported that the depressing state of the world is leading people to switch off from the news. A survey by the British research group cited the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis as having led to declining interest in the news.
The survey conducted across 46 countries involving 93,000 participants found that those who say they actively avoid the news has increased from 29 to 38 percent since 2017. The numbers doubled in countries like Brazil (54 percent) and Britain (46 percent). Young people in particular found the news to be a downer, but the chief reason for avoiding the news was its repetitiveness, especially around COVID and politics.
Others said the news led to arguments they would rather avoid, or a feeling of powerlessness, while many young people said they found it hard to understand.
Lead author Nic Newman said the findings were “particularly challenging for the news industry,” with “subjects that journalists consider most important, such as political crises, international conflicts and global pandemics, seem to be precisely the ones that are turning some people away,” he added.
Furthermore, trust in the media fell in half of the countries surveyed, and rose in just seven, reversing gains made during the pandemic. The problem is compounded by young people increasingly detaching from legacy media, with 15 percent of 18-to-24 year-olds saying they use TikTok as a primary source of news.
These are truly particularly challenging times for traditional media and the news industry as it has to deal with changing paradigms that have to be addressed if the fourth estate is to evolve and remain relevant while maintaining its role and value in democratic and freedom loving societies that will could be forever changed if that affected sector fails to rise to the challenges of the times.
It would be helpful if government were an ally to the embattled traditional media outlets as they face these challengers. Unfortunately for some countries, it is governments whose leaders have benefited from a weakened fourth estate that are the ones undermining it further. Filipinos can only hope that their government resists the temptation to further erode the important role traditional media plays in our society.*