In a poll by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, based at Oxford University, the Mail & Guardian emerged as the most trusted weekly publication in South Africa.
The report is based on a poll held in January with more than 80 000 respondents in 40 countries — and 76% said they trusted the M&G.
Globally, the poll found that less than four in 10 people trust the news.
Although it was done before Covid-19 hit the media industry and closed many media houses, with others retrenching staff or cutting salaries, the report noted that the pandemic highlighted the need for journalism.
“The seriousness of this [coronavirus] crisis has reinforced the need for reliable, accurate journalism that can inform and educate populations, but it has also reminded us how open we have become to conspiracies and misinformation,” the report reads.
Although South African media has built a strong reputation for independence, political and business interference “is an increasing concern”, the report notes.
South Africa was among the countries — after the United States, Brazil and the Philippines — where
politicians were seen as being responsible for online misinformation.
Earlier this month, the South African National Editors’ Forum looked at the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on local media organisations. Researcher Reg Rumney found that traffic to news websites increased 72% in March, just before the lockdown, and that these sites saw a 44% growth in unique browsers. Many news websites saw double-digit growth in their audience numbers in the same month.
Rumney estimated that up to 400 job could be lost at small print-media companies because of the economic pinch exacerbated by the pandemic, and said bigger news organisations have cut salaries to survive.