News avoidance and distrust in news producers are increasing worldwide, according to the latest Digital News Report by Reuters. In Flanders, 51% of people trust the

media, compared to 35% in Wallonia.

The annual study, which surveyed 95,000 people across 47 news markets, included responses from 2,000 individuals in Belgium.

“There is a remarkable increase in distrust among left-leaning Flemish people and young people,” says Ike Picone, professor of media and journalism at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. “Transparency, high journalistic standards, and representation are crucial for trust in news.”

Readers who pay for news are more satisfied with the media, particularly news that provides practical information and encourages civic engagement. However, the willingness to pay for news remains low, especially among people with lower income and education levels.

“In these troubled times, a supply of accurate, independent journalism remains more important than ever. Yet, in many countries covered in our survey, we find the news media increasingly challenged by rising mis- and disinformation, low trust, attacks by politicians, and an uncertain business environment,” says Nic Newman, the report’s lead author from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

AI Concerns

Another significant challenge for the media is combating news fatigue and lack of interest. Globally, around 39% of people report sometimes or often avoiding the news. The report suggests that publishers may be overly focused on current events, neglecting to provide diverse perspectives or stories that offer hope.

There is also widespread suspicion among news consumers about the use of AI in journalism, particularly for complex issues like politics or war. Readers are more comfortable with AI assisting in tasks that support journalists, such as transcription and translation, rather than replacing them.

Newman states, “As publishers rapidly adopt AI to make their businesses more efficient and personalize content, our research suggests they need to proceed with caution. The public generally wants humans in the driving seat at all times.” Photo by Roland Unger, Wikimedia commons.