Trust: The Shrouded Public Health Threat

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic, characterized by unprecedented loss of life; political instability; and a global infodemic, has eroded public trust in all types of institutions (Edelman, 2021) except business. Public health efforts at managing the pandemic have consequently suffered as political polarization and rampant online misinformation has undermined the uptake of critical preventive measures such as masking and vaccinating (Nehum, et al., 2021). Public-facing health organizations are particularly vulnerable to trust erosion (Samson, 2021), as their relationships with publics are often matters of life and death. Their inability to address trust erosion could potentially result in fatalities and unintended societal consequences. Understanding the trust erosion process is integral to keeping the public safe and allowing these important organizations to continue fulfilling their public health and safety missions. This study proposes a new Trust Erosion Framework, grounded in extant trust scholarship and ongoing industry discussion, to describe and explain the trust erosion phenomenon and associated processes. Moreover, the study provides insight for health and risk communicators regarding the prevention, mitigation, conservation and restoration of trust among the public.

Lügenpresse: The lying press and German journalists’ responses to a stigma.

Abstract: The term Lügenpresse, ‘lying press’, was used by the German National Socialist Party before and during the Third Reich to discredit the news media and to undermine public trust. By 2014, reports of verbal and physical attacks on journalists and news organizations by individuals calling them Lügenpresse, had again become a frequent feature of the public discourse in Germany. While the term ‘fake news’ is used to similar effect and intent in the United States, Lügenpresse is a historically and politically charged expression of distrust in news media on an institutional level. This research examines the responses and institutional strategies of 27 news editors and executive editors in Germany’s leading broadcast, print and online news organizations to the accusations that they are lying to their audiences. Findings indicate that the reemergence of the term Lügenpresse, has led to considerable self-reflection within institutions, in an effort to counter the lack of trust and to demonstratively better serve the public. The main focus across newsrooms is on improving established processes and on making professional standards and practices more visible to the audience.