The Daily Telegraph has retained its reputation as Australia’s least trusted major metro newspaper, according to today’s Essential Report, while Sydney rival The Sydney Morning Herald is the most trusted.

Last week Essential asked people who read each of the major newspapers how much trust they have in them for the first time since January 2013 (it also asked about trust in major media outlets’ coverage of the 2013 election).

Essential has asked this question three times before, from 2011-13. The Tele has been the winner of the “least trusted” category each time, and this year News Corp’s Sydney tabloid has held off a strong challenge from their News Corp colleagues at the Courier-Mail and the Herald-Sun to again claim top honours. Impressively, nearly one in five people who read it (presumably for the footy) say they have “no trust at all” in its contents — up from 15% in 2013. Overall, the Tele is down two points from 2013, as is the Herald-Sun. The Courier-Mail has lost an impressive nine points since 2013, but still couldn’t prise the title of Least Trusted from the Tele‘s steely grip.

The Australian also fell significantly, from 65% in 2013 to 58% now, but the big loss-maker is still by far the most trusted of the major News Corp titles, with 12% saying that have a lot of trust in its contents and 46% saying “some trust”. The Age (66%), once the country’s most trusted newspaper, is now well adrift of stablemate The Sydney Morning Herald, which at 70% is the winner.

Essential also asked about the credibility of individual journalists and commentators, a question only asked once before, nearly three years ago. Laurie Oakes remains Australia’s most trusted journalist, far ahead of anyone else, with 71% of people saying they have some or a lot of trust in him, including 25% who have “a lot of trust” in him.

Hot off her Killing Season triumph, the ABC’s Sarah Ferguson edges partner Tony Jones and Seven’s top political journalist Mark Riley for second: all are on 51% some or a lot of trust, with 12% of people having “a lot” of trust in her. Despite shifting into online media, Michelle Grattan also remains well-regarded, with 49% of people having some or a lot of trust in her, ahead of Neil Mitchell and the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann. Andrew Bolt isn’t far behind Jon Faine, but 30% of people who know of Bolt say they have “no trust at all” in him, even more than cellar-dweller Alan Jones, in whom 29% of people have some or a lot of trust.

But that’s a strong recovery from Jones compared to 2012; in the immediate aftermath of his comment that Julia Gillard’s father “died of shame”, he scored just 20% — with a remarkable 53% saying they had “no trust at all” in him.

There were few gender differences on journalists: the only noticeable differences were that men (48%) trusted Mark Riley less than women (55%), while men trusted both Sarah Ferguson and Tony Jones around five points less than women. But there were noticeable age differences. Under-35s were significantly less trusting than older people and especially over-55s (Chris Uhlmann, for example, rates 36% among under 35s, 48% among 35-54s and 55% among over-55s). Only Tony Jones bucks that trend, rating 51% among under-35s, 55% among 35-54s and 49% among older people, suggesting Q&A cuts through to younger people more than most political journalism. And Alan Jones belied his “king of the blue-rinse set” reputation by actually being less trusted among older people (30%) than 35-54 year olds (34%).

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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