Trust and Trustworthiness in the Fourth and Fifth Estates

Richard Collins


The high contemporary salience in the social sciences of the topics of "trust" and "trustworthiness" has focused attention on the mass media’s putative role in eroding trust. Intrinsically, the absence in the mass media of the dialogic and interactive element to trust building identified by O’ Neill (2002) may suggest that the lack of trust and trustworthiness in the mass media is structural and recent penalties imposed by the UK communication regulator, Ofcom, on UK public service broadcasters including the BBC seem to support such a view. However, drawing on and adapting O’Neill, the author identifies two distinct potential media trust building strategies: one procedural (based in professional norms) and the second dialogic and interactive (nascent in “Web 2.0” applications). Focusing on UK Web 2.0 media sites the author identifies instances where the "dialogic" character of "Web 2.0" has established and enhanced trustworthiness. He argues normatively for a combination of "Web 2.0" interactivity and the adoption and implementation of self-regulatory codes in order to enhance the trustworthiness of the media.

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