The biggest annual Hollywood took place last week. This year's Academy Awards, shadowed by calls for a boycott, still came through unfazed. While people on social media had been focused on Leonardo DiCaprio's win, the best picture win by "Spotlight" was quite unexpected for many.
Trust in journalism as a profession has been on the decline for quite some time. Any random stranger on the street would most likely have what we can call restrained trust at best or an unshakable view that media manipulates everyday events, at the worst. So when a movie that paints journalism or, more specifically, investigative journalism, in a positive light wins the best picture Oscar, the least we can do is draw up several arguments.
The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that traditional media is still ahead of social media in terms of trust. Trust in this case is about the authenticity of general news and information. With 62 percent, online search engines passed traditional media for the first time. Traditional media trailed them with 62 percent while social media was at 48 percent. From that picture, we can say that traditional media still holds its own and manages to grasp more than half of the population in terms of credibility. But looking at the past three years, we can conclude that the lead is not sustainable. In 2012, traditional media was at 67 percent, leading online search engines at 62 percent. Those numbers changed to 63 percent and 60 percent, respectively, the next year, but still in favor of traditional media. In 2014, traditional media raised its trust percentage to 65 percent and online search engines to 63 percent. But online search engines gained the upper hand for the first time, and if the past years are any indication, they are here to stay.
Let us look at social media. In 2012, 45 percent of those asked trusted it for general news and information. In 2013, social media followed the pattern of the rest and dropped to 43 percent, but ever since it has been steadily rising, with 45 percent and finally 8 percent last year. Among these three categories, only traditional media continues its decline, while the other two continue to build momentum. We can speculate that the decline in 2013 was due to the Edward Snowden case, as many people, especially those in the United States, experienced major trust issues about the government and media. Social media's bungle with the Boston Marathon bombing may have also contributed to the decline.
Nevertheless, the patterns tells us that trust in traditional media has been wavering for some time, and with its alternatives on the rise, it will not be that long until a new, hybrid form of news making replaces it, if the trend continues, that is.
Let me go back to my original point. The win by "Spotlight" as well as its good reception indicates that the public still appreciates investigative reporting, journalistic ideals and community reporting. They want to believe even though their trust has been tested many times with various global and local scandals surrounding media throughout the last decade. The "Spotlight" team had two important things going for it. A group of journalists meticulously working toward the truth with the aid of fact checking and an executive team that supported a prolonged investigative period even though it did not seem to bear fruit initially. If traditional media wants to continue holding the public's trust and attention, we have to go one step farther than just covering everyday events, which can be done just as easily with 140 characters and a good command of the language. Investigative reporting should once again find its way into newsrooms, and if movies like "Spotlight" and shows like "Newsroom" are any indication, demand is more than palpable.