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Reuters-Oxford study finds Finns most trusting of mainstream media outlets

Most people in Finland have high trust in the country's traditional news media outlets, according to the Digital News Report 2018 survey.

Seniori tabletin kanssa.
Tablets are a common way to access online news articles. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

A study of 37 countries has found that Finns are most trusting of mainstream news. Results also showed that Finns tend to question the reliability of the news without blaming outlets or twisting facts.

Media consumers in Finland were found to be most trusting of traditional media outlets in the international survey. Notably, less than one-fifth of the Finnish respondents said they trusted social media to deliver their news reliably and 29 percent said they relied on news they found while searching on the web.

The study shows that people in Finland consider mainstream news to be trustworthy even though half of those respondents said they have read news items that were erroneous, misleading or otherwise of poor quality.

The Digital News Report 2018 was compiled by researchers at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Oxford University, using data from countries from the Americas, Europe as well as parts of Asia and Oceania. The researchers queried around 2,000 people from each of the countries.

The most trusted news outlet in Finland according to the survey was Yle, followed by business paper Kauppalehti, daily Helsingin Sanomat and news periodical Suomen Kuvalehti.

The countries whose populations seem to trust the media least in the survey include South Korea and Greece.

Few regularly follow alt news outlets

Very few respondents from Finland said they regularly follow so-called alternative, unsanctioned news sources. More than half of those surveyed could identify at least one of a list of these "counter-news" sites, and eight percent said they had visited such a source in the last week.

Independent, often strongly biased new media networks have popped up in recent years to criticise mainstream media in response to perceptions of untrustworthy reporting. The term "fake news" came into popular parlance after US President Donald Trump and the media began using it on a regular basis. But its definition remains somewhat fluid, depending on who is using the term.

However, the group of people that engages in such activity is a tiny minority, according to the Council for Mass Media.

"We have a very vocal but small opposition that incites distrust towards the media and propagates the impression that traditional mass media is not to be trusted," the Council's chair Elina Grundström says. "The fact is that citizens certainly criticise such mainstream media, but clearly trust it far more than free-flying information on the internet."

Web content popular

Increasingly people are prepared to pay for online news content. The proportion of those who said they pay for access to news on the web increased from 15 percent last year to 18 percent this year.

Finnish users also mainly get their news stories straight from an outlet's homepage, rather than reaching them through social media or some other third party.

Online news has continued to gain ground, but it has not supplanted traditional print papers, radio or television.

Finland has been involved in the annual Reuters Institute survey since 2014.

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