Truth and trust: How audiences are making sense of fake news

Date Posted: May 30, 2019 Last Modified: May 30, 2019
Truth and trust: How audiences are making sense of fake news Photo: Arek Socha, Pixabay

This thesis looks into the relationships between news media and trust from the perspective of the individual audience member using the term "fake news". It seeks to understand how audiences engage and define the term "fake news" in the contemporary media environment and its effects on the overall engagement with news media. The study used an inductive and qualitative approach of in-depth interviews with twelve transnational individuals, men and women within the age range of 25-35 years old. It further explores how the transnationalism of the subjects further affects their use of the term "fake news", their trust of certain information sources, and their overall engagement with news media. 

  • All the audience members had trouble defining what fake news actually was and their understanding of it was subjective. The largest similarities found in the definitions were found in the strategies they used to consume news in order to avoid being misled by possible fake news.
  • The audience members defined fake news using three main criteria: factual, political and ethical. These criteria were used to judge what was real or fake news.
  • Every audience member consumed news from different parts of the world with only language barriers limiting their consumption. The different kinds of transnationalism brought a fresh perspective of the term "fake news" with one member viewing the term as product of western media. All the 12 members expressed they used triangulation as a method to corroborate information or compare representations on news media.
  • The findings point out that the audience members had a strong reliance on their own subjectivity when it came to using the term "fake news". They relied on their subjective judgements when they were unsure about the trustworthiness of a news story in order to make an informed opinion.