Truth and Trust : How Audiences are Making Sense of Fake News
Abstract: This thesis explores the relationship between news media and trust from the perspective of the individual audience member using the term “fake news” to do so. This thesis set out to understand how audiences were engaging with and defining the term “fake news” in our contemporary media environment and if and how this was affecting their overall engagement with news media. To do so, the study used an inductive and qualitative approach wherein in-depth interviews were conducted with twelve transnational individuals, both men and women, ranging from 25-35 years old. This was done in order to examine how transnationalism of audiences could further affect their use of the term “fake news” , their trust of certain information sources, and their overall engagement with news media. Recent polls have shown that trust of journalists and mass media has been dwindling in the West for several decades. Instead of conducting further surveys, this thesis allowed for the individual transnational audience members to more comprehensively express their perceptions and experiences with the use of the in-depth interview process. The term “fake news” was used as a case study to explore this trend and to better understand who it was that they trusted for providing them with truthful information and how they made these assessments. The results from this study suggest that audience interpretations of the term were approached with three different types of judgements: factual, political, and ethical. The different types of transnationalism that existed within the group of twelve interviewees also affected how they defined the term “fake news” , who they trusted, and how they engaged with news media. The interviewees did express that there were particular sources that they did depend on for supplying information — most often established from their familiarity with the outlet. All twelve expressed that they used triangulation as a method to either compare representations of news story or to corroborate information supplied by news media. The use of triangulation revealed that the interviewees approach news media that they are uncertain of with a default system of distrust in order to avoid being deceived.
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