The Australian media industry is not inspiring a great deal of trust.

According to today’s Essential Report, just 18% of readers of The Sydney Morning Herald say they have “a lot of trust” in it; only 14% of Age readers and 12% of The Australian’s readers say the same. The major tabloids fare even worse. And these numbers are not massively different compared to two or three years ago. That follows results from last week showing all major media — TV, radio, newspaper, online (even the must trusted, the ABC) — sliding in terms of overall trust. That extends to news websites, a category that includes Crikey.

Part of this story is surely one of fragmentation; as the internet enables us to control our sources of information more and more, we construct media environments composed of what we agree with, turning our backs on analog-era mainstream media platforms that once aspired to present a diversity of views and a comprehensive set of analyses of public events.

But it is just as surely not entirely about the readers, the viewers, the listeners. All media companies and organisations clearly aren’t giving their consumers as much confidence in the integrity and quality of their journalism. And this may well be a vicious circle — lower trust, lower consumption, lower revenue, lower funding for quality journalism, lower trust and so on.

No matter what the cause, however, the outcome is clear — a fragmentation of what used to be a relatively unified public space, a cynicism toward the pretensions of the media to inform and debate, an unwillingness to engage on important public issues. No wonder politicians struggle to convince voters of “reform” when voters have little trust in the media that discuss it.