Trust in Media revisited: A Rational-emotional Model

Project: Research

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The public perception of media credibility (or trust in the news media) is a frequentlystudied, albeit much contested concept in mass communications research. To develop amedia credibility scale of high validity and reliability is a first step to understanding thecomplicated social interactions between the media and audience. However, a set ofagreed-upon operational definitions for constructing a measure of media credibility iscurrently lacking. Some studies have used single items, such as “to what extent do youtrust newspapers,” whereas others have adopted multi-dimensional scales based on theview that people consider multiple factors in formulating their impressions of the media.We argue that the recent measures of media credibility tend to overemphasize the role ofjournalistic professionalism. In other words, these measures assume that people onlyconsider factors such as objectivity, fairness, and accuracy when they evaluate themedia. However, empirical research has demonstrated that the public do not alwaysprocess information systematically when judging the credibility of the media and thatpeople are often influenced by their political identity, heuristic cues, and macro-societalfactors.The primary goal of this proposed project is to develop a solid theoretical understandingof the factors influencing people’s trust in the news media and to produce acomprehensive empirical scale that is capable of capturing the rational and emotionalprocesses through which people develop particular perceptions of the news media. Toachieve this, we will first conduct a series of in-depth interviews and focus groupdiscussions to gain a broad understanding of the factors that influence trust in the newsmedia from the audience’s perspective. Based on the insights gained from the interviewsand focus group discussions, we will then conduct a two-wave longitudinal audiencesurvey in Hong Kong and use the results to construct a multi-dimensional model oftrust in the news media. Our project will make a theoretical contribution to the field byshedding conceptual insight on the cognitive and emotional factors that influence thepublic’s judgment of media credibility. We expect that the measurement scale developedin this project will be applicable to a wide range of future academic studies on mediacredibility. The study will also help the media industry to better understand itsrelationship with the audience.


Project number9042284
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1622/05/19