Against a backdrop of fake news, disinformation and attacks on free speech, 66% of people surveyed said they “appreciate and value journalism more since the global coronavirus pandemic began”.
Encouragingly, says Newsworks, the increase is most stark in the under 35-year-olds, with 77% valuing the work of journalists more now in providing reliable information and news, the study by three leading research firms found.
Younger people are increasingly using trusted news brands to check what they see on social media. Although 42% of under 35-year-olds said they used social media more throughout the height of the pandemic, seven in ten of those said they felt less anxious about a story they had seen on social media once they had then checked it out via a news brand.
And 70% of all respondents agreed that a “world without journalism would harm democratic society” – nearly all those cited the work journalists do in “covering important topics and issues that might otherwise be overlooked” and are “important to society”.
The in depth research, commissioned by Newsworks, and announced during Journalism Matters in partnership with the News Media Association and Society of Editors, also identified six goals that consuming news helps individuals to achieve including: connecting with others; understanding the world around us; and, helping us, as individuals, to thrive.
Jo Allan, managing director at Newsworks, said: “This research clearly shows the importance of trusted news and information. Journalism matters to increasingly large numbers of people who are relying on news brands more than ever, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is our biggest study to date and what has emerged is the essential and growing role news plays in bringing us together, providing us with different perspectives and helping us to understand what is happening in the world around us.”
NMA deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson said: “Trusted journalism produced by local and national news media titles is an essential part of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. But the industry needs urgent action from Government on a number of fronts – tackling the overweening power of the tech giants, promoting verifiable news sources, and initiating targeted support initiatives - so that it can continue to perform this vital role and deliver the journalism we all want to read.”
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors said: "It was always understood that the public supported a free press and recognised the need for the mainstream media with its ability to provide well researched, balanced, correctly edited news content and the proof has been provided by the numbers in which people have turned to trusted journalism for news and information during this pandemic.
"The figures supported by this research underscore the public's understanding of the value of the news content that the press provides in the UK."
Spanning a total of nine months, across two periods – pre and post lockdown – the research included a unique behavioural experiment that deprived regular readers from consuming news brands. On the flipside a group of non-news readers were asked to read a news brand every single day for the same one-week period.
Denise Turner, insight director at Newsworks, said: “We asked people to live in a world without news by depriving them of their regular news brands. Equally, non-news readers were saturated with news, and while the two groups were from polar opposites of the news spectrum the results of the experiment were surprisingly similar – a world without news made people more anxious, less clear and less sure of their perspective on the world. In short, the results showed us how news brands help us to navigate our lives and provide us with an orientation that just isn’t there when we are starved of news brands.”
‘World Without News’ will be presented at an event on 16 October when the full findings will be made available.