Trust in the Media Is Low Among African-American, Feminist and Asian-American Twitter Users

The Knight Foundation released the results of a study it commissioned

Respondents use Twitter as a curated news source - Credit by andresr/iStock
Headshot of David Cohen

Which one of the five most-shared news outlets by African Americans, feminists and Asian Americans on Twitter is considered the most trustworthy by those groups? If you guessed The Washington Post, The New York Times, HuffPost or CNN, guess again.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned a study of more than 46 million tweets with hashtags related to those communities from 2015 and 2016, and it found that BuzzFeed was the only one of the five most-shared news outlet across the three groups to earn a positive favorability score.

The study also incorporated “in-depth interviews with community participants and journalists.”

Other findings include:

  • Respondents use Twitter as a curated news source in order to “avoid problematic portrayals by mainstream media outlets.”
  • Respondents were twice as likely to express negative views of the 23 major news outlets included in the study than positive views, but the most criticized outlets were usually the most shared, as well.
  • Fake news is not as important an issue to these three groups as how stories are framed by media outlets, and respondents felt that “certain facts are being emphasized at the expense of others.”
  • Members of the three communities often use Twitter to share content and raise awareness about issues that concern them, rather than waiting for journalists to cover those issues.
  • Journalists view Twitter as a “highly productive tool” for gathering story ideas and insights.
  • Respondents did not want their tweets used by journalists without permission, citing lack of control over intellectual property and the potential for being harassed online.
  • The data revealed feedback loops in which participants created compelling Twitter content, media outlets covered it and the community circulated media coverage of that content.

Researcher Meredith D. Clark of the University of Virginia, one of the authors of the report, shared this advice for journalists: “The ‘fix’ for professional news media outlets and the diverse communities they cover is simple, and it is tweeted every day among the groups represented in this research: Do the work. Just as reporters of journalism lore spent hours talking to potential sources, media professionals who truly want to improve their outlet’s position in the digital and social media landscape will invest the time to learn more about the communities and individuals they meet online.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.