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What the demise of Australian Associated Press means for public trust

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Wire agency Australian Associated Press (AAP) announced it will close in June. The behind-the-scenes media outlet that keeps the new sites and broadsheets you read each day plush with content, blames digital content aggregators, search engines and social media for its closure.

This is a blow for public interest journalism in Australia during a time when we need it more than ever. According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer, public trust in government, business, charities and the media has collapsed in the wake of the national bushfire crisis with no institution seen as both competent and ethical.

Buoyed by misinformation during the bushfire crisis, the public feel that the media is producing fake news. And in some ways, they’re right. Social media, user-generated content and the 24/7 newsroom have dramatically raised the stakes in the battle to uphold accuracy in the media. AAP plays an important role in maintaining quality journalism. During the bushfires, for example, AAP published a daily update tracking the number of people who had been killed in each state – making sure every newspaper was getting its facts right.

The Trust Barometer shows us the general population are already in a place of pessimism and the closure of AAP is likely to compound this. However, this pessimism is accompanied by a call for change. Business is being called to lead with 78 per cent of Australians believing CEOs should take the lead on change rather than wait for government. 2020 marks an opportunity for our institutions to step up, take action and lead on key issues that will unite Australians and instil hope for the future.

Molly Bruce

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