Building a Trustworthy Media Entity in the Age of AI & Declining Confidence


The unprecedented speed and scale at which AI can disseminate and amplify falsehoods are sending shockwaves through the media landscape.

50 steps to build a trustworthy media venture

In a world increasingly defined by digital disruption, generative artificial intelligence (AI), and polarizing ideologies, the need for trustworthy media has never been more critical. The media landscape is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and with the proliferation of AI, the battle to rebuild trust in media and tackle disinformation has become a pressing concern. Trust in news is at an all-time low, with only 40% of the population worldwide placing faith in the information they encounter. Concerns surrounding disinformation, fake news, and the influence of AI on news consumption have intensified, painting a disconcerting picture of the media ecosystem in 2023.

The media ecosystem in 2023 is an intricate web of digital, mobile, and platform-dominated environments. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards this “new normal,” compelling journalists and news media to carve out their spaces to connect with an increasingly digital-savvy public. However, this digital transformation has brought both opportunities and challenges, with an ever-growing array of platforms and channels for information dissemination.

Audience preferences are shifting as well. More and more people are getting news from social media, but this shift comes with its own set of challenges. Younger generations, in particular, exhibit a weaker connection with traditional news outlets and a stronger affinity for content shared via social networks, search engines, and aggregators. This shift in consumption patterns poses a conundrum for news organizations striving to maintain their relevance and credibility.

In this evolving landscape, the issue of trust is paramount. Trust in media is declining, and the reasons are multifaceted. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2023 reveals that fewer people, especially those with polarized mindsets, trust the media. Trust in media is not only declining but also recognized as a driving force behind polarization. The erosion of trust in the media is both a cause and a consequence of extreme polarization, indicating a vicious cycle that media organizations must address.

These challenges are exacerbated by the growing concerns around disinformation and misinformation. Over half of survey respondents report worries about distinguishing between real and fake information on the internet, further emphasizing the necessity for media to be not only accurate but also distinguishable from disinformation.

The reward for trust has been in various forms and currencies, however, the biggest currency that governs trust in relationships both individual and/or societal level is and will remain credibility. Credibility is the ability to instill trust or belief in a person or institution, with respect to ones competence, skill, or character. It is an invaluable currency that can generate awesome results when it is built. Credibility is crucial in relationships, and it can drive whether we get the sale, the next date, or get the attention of our teenagers. Here are some ways to establish credibility in relationships:

Building trust: It is the most important factor in establishing credibility. You cannot cultivate a relationship without trust. Being honest and dependable play a role in contributing toward a high score in the credibility department.

Trustworthiness: Being trust worthy is another way to establish credibility. Your skills and expertise demonstrate your knowledge on certain matters, which helps develop credibility.

Being authentic: It means being honest, transparent, and consistent in words and actions. It also means being true to yourself, your values, and goals. People can recognize when you are genuine or not, and they will respond more positively to you if you are.

Building rapport: It helps create a connection and a sense of commonality with the other person, based on shared interests, experiences, or values. Building rapport helps you establish trust, likability, and empathy, which are essential for credibility and influence.

Being assertive: Expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in a clear and respectful way is a must. It also means standing up for yourself and your values, while respecting the rights and opinions of others. Being assertive helps you establish boundaries, build self-confidence, and win respect from others.

Credibility is an essential element of effective leadership and strong relationships. Building trust, being trustworthy, being authentic, building rapport, and being assertive are some ways to establish credibility in relationships.

As Pakistan undergoes the shift from traditional linear media to the dynamic realm of digital media, it encounters a landscape filled with both challenges and opportunities. In an attention-driven economy, the ever-evolving dynamics of the media industry introduce a new form of currency — content appreciation.

Pakistan has experienced a surge in information dissemination since the deregulation of the telecommunications and media sectors in 2002 and 2004, respectively. However, the ecosystem of content and intelligence has struggled to effectively synthesize this information into knowledge for its consumers. This growing gap not only widens but also deepens societal divisions, limiting the populace’s understanding of the complex socio-economic challenges that fall within the sphere of public interest.

Summarizing these into a Media Credibility Index has already been done through earlier research done by Mishal Pakistan through a research grant by the Open Society Foundation.

The research was complimented by the further research on Development Journalism and State of Ethical Standards, a Research Report on News Media in Pakistan supported by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) through the International Media Support (IMS)

Over the years, news and current affairs programs have assumed a unique position as custodians of people’s trust and interests. The challenges in this custodianship stem from the absence of robust knowledge management systems within Pakistan’s media landscape. To address this, the Media Credibility Index adopts a qualitative, evidence-based approach to assess the credibility of media professionals across six pillars: professionalism, accuracy, balance, timeliness, ethics, and fairness. These pillars draw from an examination of more than thirty codes of conduct, including those from Pakistani institutions and international media ethics bodies.

The research on Media Credibility Index in the age of artificial intelligence can create opportunities to redefine social media interactions, by complimenting with Big-Data intelligence. This can introduce gamification in the news and current affairs realms. Bringing a whole new generation of content creators and consumers into competition with the wise, credible and the old both in terms of time, reach, influence, and credibility.   

As the world braces for record-breaking US Presidential elections in 2024, concerns about the amplification of misinformation and disinformation by generative AI loom large. The unprecedented speed and scale at which AI can disseminate and amplify falsehoods are sending shockwaves through the media landscape. The transformation of the media ecosystem by AI presents challenges and opportunities that demand careful consideration and collective action.

image 4 | Daily Narratives, Featured, Media Matters from Narratives Magazine

The decline in interest in news is another alarming trend. Interest in news is dropping, with fewer people expressing a “very” or “extremely” high level of interest in news. This is a sign of changing media consumption habits and a challenge for media organizations seeking to engage and inform their audiences effectively.

Economic factors also play a role in the media landscape. High inflation has sparked a cost-of-living crisis, causing people to rethink their spending priorities. In this context, paying for news subscriptions has become a difficult decision, especially in an era where information is increasingly available for free.

Global ad revenue for print media has dropped significantly, and the rise of generative AI threatens to further disrupt traditional business models. This AI could enable search functionality that doesn’t require users to click through to access content, posing risks to media business models that rely on traffic and advertising revenue.

The media industry’s growth has decelerated, and the challenges it faces seem formidable. The industry must find ways to adapt and evolve to remain relevant and trustworthy in this rapidly changing environment.

Building trust in the media is a collective endeavor that requires the collaboration of journalists, media organizations, readers, and technology companies. The challenges posed by AI and the changing media landscape can be surmounted by a steadfast commitment to the principles of journalism: accuracy, fairness, transparency, and accountability.

As we navigate this transformative era in media, the focus must remain on the audience, on truth, and on the vital role that journalism plays in upholding democracy. Rebuilding trust is a journey that begins with these strategies and continues with a dedication to serving the public with integrity and excellence. Trust in the media is not only a necessity but a cornerstone of informed, democratic societies. In a world rife with disinformation and polarization, the role of trustworthy media entities in guiding us towards a more enlightened future cannot be overstated.

Building trust is an ongoing journey that demands consistency, a commitment to ethical journalism, and a genuine dedication to serving your audience with accurate, reliable, and unbiased information. It is imperative to adapt to the ever-evolving media landscape, especially in the context of AI, while staying true to the principles of journalism that uphold truth and transparency.

The challenges faced by the media landscape in 2023 are formidable, but they also present opportunities for media entities to rethink their strategies and emerge as beacons of trust and reliability.

So, how can a new media entity navigate this challenging terrain and build trust in an age of AI and declining confidence? Here are 50 thought-provoking steps to strategies for media organizations to consider:

  1. Transparency as the Cornerstone of Trust: It is the bedrock upon which trust is built. Media organizations must be forthright about their editorial processes, sources, and any potential conflicts of interest. By revealing how stories are researched, fact-checked, and edited, they can demonstrate their commitment to truth and credibility.
  2. Accountability for Accuracy: Media entities should hold themselves accountable for the accuracy of their content. Timely corrections of errors and adherence to strict editorial standards are vital. Establishing clear guidelines and consequences for breaches of journalistic ethics is essential to maintaining trust.
  3. Quality over Quantity: Prioritize quality content over quantity. Invest in journalism that upholds ethical standards and delivers well-researched, balanced, and reliable reporting. Quality content is the cornerstone of building and maintaining trust.
  4. Diversify Sources: Avoid over-reliance on AI-generated content and single sources. Use a variety of sources to provide a balanced and accurate representation of the news. Multiple perspectives can help in presenting a more comprehensive picture of events.
  5. Promote Media Literacy: Educate audience about media literacy. Equip them with the tools and knowledge to critically evaluate information, identify credible sources, and understand the impact of AI on news consumption. Empowering readers to make informed decisions is crucial.
  6. Foster User Engagement: Engage with your audience through comments, social media interactions, and feedback mechanisms. Create a community where readers feel heard and valued. Encouraging reader participation can foster trust and loyalty.
  7. Fact-Checking as a Priority: Invest in fact-checking resources and make it clear when content has been fact-checked. Demonstrating a commitment to accuracy and truthfulness is vital for rebuilding trust.
  8. Ethical Use of AI: If AI is used in content generation or curation, ensure it adheres to ethical guidelines. Transparency about AI involvement in content creation is essential. AI should be a tool to enhance human journalism, not replace it.
  9. Collaborative Partnerships: Collaborate with reputable organizations, fact-checkers, and experts to strengthen your content’s credibility. Partnering with trusted entities can enhance your own trustworthiness.
  10. Long-Term Vision: Building trust is a gradual process. Consistency in producing reliable content over time is essential. Be patient and persistent in your efforts to establish trust with your audience.
  11. Ethical Advertising: Be discerning about the advertisements you accept. Avoid misleading or unethical ads that could harm your reputation and trustworthiness.
  12. Data Protection and Privacy: If you collect user data, ensure you have robust data protection and privacy measures in place. Be transparent about your data practices and offer users control over their data.
  13. Editorial Independence: Safeguard your editorial independence. Avoid undue influence from advertisers or external parties that could compromise the integrity of your content.
  14. Community Guidelines: Establish clear and fair community guidelines to govern user interactions on your platform. Create a safe and respectful environment for discussions.
  15. Continuous Improvement: Regularly assess and improve your processes and practices. Be open to feedback and adapt to changes in technology and audience needs.
  16. Content Diversity: Ensure your content reflects diverse perspectives and voices. Represent different communities and avoid biases in your reporting.
  17. Long-Form Investigative Journalism: In an era of clickbait and quick headlines, there is a renewed appetite for in-depth, investigative journalism. Media organizations can invest in long-form reporting that delves deep into critical issues, providing readers with comprehensive, well-researched stories that foster trust.
  18. Audience Engagement and Listening: Media entities can go beyond user comments and social media interactions to actively listen to their audience. Conduct surveys, host town halls, and seek direct feedback from readers to understand their needs and concerns. This not only shows a commitment to audience interests but also helps tailor content to their preferences.
  19. Local Journalism: Local news is the lifeblood of communities. Media organizations can revitalize local journalism by investing in local reporters and covering issues that matter to people on a community level. Being a source of trusted local news can help rebuild trust from the ground up.
  20. Innovation in Storytelling: Embrace new formats and technologies for storytelling. Podcasts, interactive graphics, virtual reality, and other innovative mediums can make news more engaging and relatable. Adapting to evolving storytelling techniques can capture and retain audience interest.
  21. Algorithmic Transparency: If AI is used in content curation or personalization, be transparent about the algorithms at play. Explain how recommendations are made and the criteria for content selection. This transparency can mitigate concerns about AI-driven information bubbles.
  22. Ethical Data Journalism: Data journalism is powerful but must be wielded responsibly. Use data to uncover insights and hold institutions accountable. At the same time, respect privacy and ensure data is handled ethically and securely.
  23. Empower Journalists: Invest in the training and well-being of journalists. Provide opportunities for professional development and encourage investigative reporting. Support journalists in their efforts to uncover the truth and report it accurately.
  24. Global Perspectives: Expand your global coverage to offer readers a broader understanding of international events and cultures. This can help counteract biases and enhance the diversity of perspectives in your reporting.
  25. Protecting Sources: Guarantee the safety and confidentiality of sources. Journalists must be able to assure their sources that they can come forward with critical information without fear of reprisal.
  26. Fighting Disinformation: Dedicate resources to actively combat disinformation. Develop fact-checking teams and algorithms to identify and debunk fake news. Show your commitment to accuracy and truth.
  27. Partnerships with Academia: Collaborate with academic institutions to conduct research on the impact of media and AI on society. Academic partnerships can provide valuable insights and solutions to the challenges faced by media entities.
  28. Community-Based Reporting: Engage local communities in reporting and sharing news. Grassroots reporting can foster a sense of trust and belonging, especially in areas where mainstream media may have limited reach.
  29. Reinforce Journalistic Ethics: Journalism’s core principles, such as accuracy, fairness, and impartiality, must be upheld unwaveringly. Ensure that your newsroom operates with a strict adherence to these ethics, reinforcing trust in your reporting.
  30. Social Responsibility: Acknowledge your role as a steward of democracy and society. Highlight your commitment to responsible journalism, community engagement, and promoting democratic values.
  31. Crowdsourced Fact-Checking: Harness the collective wisdom of your audience. Implement systems for crowdsourced fact-checking where readers can report potential inaccuracies. This collaborative approach not only improves the accuracy of your content but also fosters a sense of community.
  32. Transparent Corrections: When errors occur, handle them with transparency. Clearly communicate corrections, retractions, and updates to your readers. This demonstrates a commitment to accuracy and accountability.
  33. Cross-Verification: Double-check facts and sources, especially in high-stakes or sensitive stories. Utilize multiple verification methods and encourage journalists to independently verify information to ensure the highest levels of accuracy.
  34. Encourage Investigative Reporting: Invest in in-depth investigative reporting. Investigative journalism often plays a pivotal role in holding powerful entities accountable and uncovering truths that may otherwise remain hidden.
  35. Reimagining Business Models: Explore innovative business models that can support quality journalism. Consider alternative revenue streams beyond traditional advertising, such as reader subscriptions, donations, and partnerships.
  36. Resilience Against Threats: Safeguard your journalists and their work against threats and harassment. Media organizations should invest in cybersecurity and provide support to journalists who may face backlash for their reporting.
  37. Adaptive AI Integration: AI can be a valuable tool for journalists. Rather than replacing human journalists, AI can be used to assist in tasks like data analysis, trend identification, and content curation. Invest in AI that augments, rather than replaces, human work.
  38. Story Verification Tools: Develop and implement AI tools that help in verifying the authenticity of user-generated content. This can help in distinguishing real news from fabricated or manipulated content.
  39. Promote Digital Literacy: Offer educational resources to help readers navigate the digital landscape. This includes teaching them how to identify credible sources, recognize misinformation, and protect their privacy online.
  40. Media and Digital Literacy in Education: Work with educational institutions to integrate media and digital literacy into school curricula. Empowering the next generation with these skills is a long-term investment in creating discerning media consumers.
  41. Advocate for Responsible AI: Engage in advocacy efforts to promote responsible AI development and deployment. Collaborate with AI researchers, policymakers, and industry leaders to establish ethical AI standards.
  42. Unbiased Reporting: Commit to unbiased reporting. Avoid sensationalism, polarization, and bias in your content. Uphold journalistic principles of fairness and impartiality to earn and maintain the trust of diverse audiences.
  43. Support Independent Journalism: Contribute to the sustainability of independent journalism. Supporting non-profit news organizations and initiatives can help bolster the media ecosystem.
  44. Disclose Ownership: Clearly disclose ownership structures and any potential conflicts of interest. Transparency in ownership can help mitigate concerns about media organizations being influenced by external forces.
  45. Data Ethics: Handle data responsibly and ethically. Respect user privacy, and ensure that data collected is used solely for legitimate journalistic purposes.
  46. AI for Media Literacy: Leverage AI to create educational tools and platforms that promote media literacy. AI-driven educational content can help users develop critical thinking skills when consuming news.
  47. Trust Seals and Standards: Consider adopting trust seals or certifications from reputable organizations that verify your commitment to journalistic standards and ethics.
  48. Reader Participation: Encourage readers to participate in the editorial process. Seek input on story selection, conduct reader surveys, and host town hall-style discussions to ensure the content reflects their interests and concerns.
  49. Ethical Advertising Policies: Establish strict ethical advertising policies. Ensure that the ads you carry align with your values and do not compromise the integrity of your content.
  50. Global Collaboration: Collaborate with media organizations from around the world to address global challenges such as disinformation, AI ethics, and media literacy. Shared expertise and resources can make a collective impact.

Rebuilding trust in the media is a multifaceted journey that demands unwavering dedication to ethical journalism, transparent practices, and a deep commitment to serving the public. The challenges presented by the changing media landscape and the influence of AI are significant, but they also offer opportunities for media entities to reinvigorate their roles as purveyors of accurate, credible, and trustworthy information.

In a world where misinformation spreads rapidly, and polarization threatens to divide societies, the role of the media as a beacon of truth and accountability cannot be overstated. Trust in the media is not merely a commodity; it is the foundation upon which informed, democratic societies are built. In this transformative era, the focus must remain on journalistic integrity, truth, and the crucial role media plays in guiding us toward a more enlightened future.

To succeed in this mission, media organizations must remain adaptable, resilient, and deeply committed to their ethical responsibilities. Rebuilding and maintaining trust in the media is not a solitary endeavor but a collective responsibility that extends from journalists and media entities to readers and technology companies. It is a commitment to the principles of journalism that underpin truth, transparency, and accountability principles that will ultimately shape the future of trustworthy media in an age of AI and evolving challenges.

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Amir Jahangir
Amir Jahangir
The writer is a global competitiveness, risk, and development expert. He leads Mishal Pakistan, the country partner institute of the Centre for the New Economy and Society Platform at the World Economic Forum.

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