Are readers sophisticated enough to filter what they read?
Are the opinions presented in newspapers an obstacle to readers’ trust or are readers sophisticated enough to filter what they read and arrive at the truth – or a version of it? The issue emerged during discussions at the We Media forum and opinions were mixed.David Brain, European president and chief executive officer at the public relations company Edelman, believes that they are not an obstacle. Readers, he believes, are able to filter the information they receive from their favourite paper – and arrive at the “truth” for themselves.He said: “People buy the Times or the Mirror, which have different perspectives but their readers are still comfortable with that. They can interpret what they are reading and deduce the truth. I don’t think it’s true that people accept at face value the perspective they are given.”A European Commission representative at the event, however, disputed this view.Dominic Brett, head of outreach and regional affairs at the European Commission in London, said he strongly disagreed with the view that newspapers or other news consumers are able to filter opinion from news.”People can’t filter this if they have not got a straight picture to start with. In the UK people do trust organisations like the BBC or Reuters. But I am less convinced than [David Brain] that people can filter news from papers like the Daily Mail. Readers are simply not in a position to do that, they cannot possibly do it unless they have the full picture to start with. If the agenda is so skewed in the media, how can anyone make an informed decision and thereby filter what they hear?”Brett said that the European Commission found reporting on European issues in the UK press was a “total hindrance” to ensuring that public opinion was informed.”We are not trying to stifle debate but reporting inaccuracy is a greater hindrance here than anywhere else. The UK is not the most Eurosceptic country in Europe – that honour belongs to Austria – but the constant misreporting of facts has a detrimental effect on a democratic way of life in the UK. The scorn of the media for the EU generally is very damaging, not least because so much of daily life is now decided in Brussels.””The fact that decisions in the EU are always endorsed by the UK Government is neatly overlooked. It would do the electorate in this country a big favour if we could have more factual reporting, so people could make their own minds up. A debate would then be possible. Until then, what happens is that everything gets blamed on Brussels and how the UK adopts laws is conveniently forgotten.”