60 Minutes incident affected consumer trust in journalism for a third of people, finds poll

60 minutesMore than a third of people say their faith in Australian journalism was eroded by the 60 Minutes’ child snatch debacle, according to a public poll carried out for Mumbrella.

The YouGov poll of 1,000 people found just 9% think Australian journalism is “very trustworthy”, while 62% said they consider it “somewhat trustworthy”. That left 10% describing it as “very untrustworthy” and 19% saying it was “somewhat untrustworthy”.

Journalist Tracey Spicer told Mumbrella she was: “heartened by the fact that 71% of respondents find Australia journalism somewhat or very trustworthy”.

“Often, polls show we’re on the same rung as real estate agents and used car salespeople,” she added.

Men were more polarised by the fourth estate than women, with 11% saying they find Australian journalism very trustworthy and 12% describing it as very untrustworthy. Female respondents were evenly split with 7% in each camp.

However, faith in journalism has been shaken by the 60 Minutes incident in Beirut, where reporter Tara Brown and her crew were arrested along with a child abduction team after attempting to snatch two children from a bus stop to reunite them with their Australian mother.

The bungled attempt and subsequent arrests created an international incident combined with embarrassing leaks about the extent of the Nine Network crew’s involvement in the planing of the operation. Nine Network is currently conducting a review of its processes.

Asked if that incident had shaken their trust in local reporting, 36% of people said it had, while just under half (49%) said no. Around 16% claimed not to have heard about the incident.

Despite the 60 Minutes incident directly impacting a mother’s ability to see her children more men (40%) than women  (31%) said it had affected their confidence.

The split amongst people unmoved by the incident was more even, 49% of men and 48% of women.


Spicer says it is “appalling” 60 Minutes inserted itself into a story

Spicer, who works for ABC TV’s The Drum and is a columnist for Fairfax Media and Debrief Daily, said she was “surprised that only a third of respondents” had said their trust in Australian journalism had been impacted by the 60 Minutes incident.

She said: “It is appalling that 60 Minutes inserted itself into this story. As a journalist, I find myself questioning how something like this was approved, right up to the top. It’s extremely damaging to the profession. But, perhaps the survey results show that the public expects such conduct from tabloid current affairs programs.”

Spicer said chequebook journalism, political bias and commercial influence are contributing to the perception that Australian journalism is untrustworthy.

“During my 30 years in the industry, I’ve had stories ‘pulled’ several times because the subject is a significant advertiser with the station,” she said.

“We need to be more transparent in our processes and consider the Code of Ethics at all times.”

YouGov surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 Australians.


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