Trusting News Online - A qualitative study of perceptions of online newspaper credibility among young Norwegian adults
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The focus of this master’s thesis is online newspaper credibility. Previous research of quantitative nature has indicated that online newspapers are perceived as less credible than other news media channels, and this thesis aims to investigate evaluations and subjective meanings on credibility in order to understand reasons behind these findings. The research question that is to be answered is: What affects the perceived credibility of online newspapers among young Norwegian adults? The sample of the study consists of eight Norwegian news consumers aged 22 to 28 years. Qualitative interviews have been conducted to investigate the informants’ news consume, their understanding of credibility as a term, and their perceptions of medium and source credibility, two widely applied approaches within credibility research. The findings are discussed in light of previous research on credibility, media performance and studies on the implications of digitalization and tabloidization of news. The main findings of this thesis show that news media credibility is closely related to traditional criteria for journalistic quality. The informants have expectations of news media as a complete and accurate source of relevant information contributing to an informed society. Quality demands are important in the evaluation of the credibility of channels as well as sources, and has remained crucial through the development of the digital media environment in which we live in today. In addition to this, the credibility of online newspapers is negatively impacted by what the informants see as increased tabloidization due to the digital news media’s search for revenue. Use of clickbait headlines and content that is deemed irrelevant and trivial makes several informants assess online newspapers as less credible than traditional media channels. The emphasis given to tabloidization as negative for credibility is something that has not been widely investigated in previous research. Although some aspects are understood as a feature of online newspapers as a channel, the informants emphasise that the quality, information value, and degree of tabloidization that can be found within individual sources have a bigger impact on their evaluation of credibility. The perception of online newspaper credibility is, then, a product of both the channel that the news are being presented in and the source from which they originate.