What we're saying

How people are trusting the media to report the war in Ukraine


Authored by: Graeme McGilliard – Media Strategist


The past two years have contributed to public trust in traditional media disappearing at an alarming rate. The Edelman Trust Barometer showed that in the UK trust in traditional media had dropped eight points in a year as misinformation ran riot.

As the war unfolds in the Ukraine, the UK press has responded by putting their most experienced journalists in the heart of the story. Reporting as the bombs fall, as the refugrees flee, as the bodies mount. And it is their very presence that is driving a resurgence of trust and respect in both media outlets and experienced journalism.

This is the first conflict where it could be possible to track events purely through citizen journalism. Yet TV viewers, radio listeners, online and print audiences are all sharply spiking as people get a curated news narrative to help them understand the latest updates from the front lines of this conflict.

Away from print and linear broadcasting, it is interesting to see how viewers on social companion channels of traditional media platforms have soared too. The Sky News’ TikTok channel doubled its followers in just a day in the early days of the Ukraine conflict, and one video received nearly 12 million views. 

ITV’s TikToks, it says, were viewed almost 11m times in a day on Thursday February 24. It claims to now be ‘the third highest news organisation and number one UK broadcaster on that platform’.

Over on Channel 4 News, its coverage pulled in 7m viewers across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and three of the outlet’s TikToks received collectively 2m views. The channel says it  has 15,000 new TikTok followers.

In traditional broadcast, the BBC says that its extended News at Six on the first Thursday of the Russian invasion drew an average of 5.3m adults – 20 per cent higher than the 2021 average – and the News at 10 3.8m adults, constituting a 30 per cent audience share.

​​BBC News’ online offering also had a busy day that day, seeing almost 23m UK visitors, also the highest figure in over a year. It was the sixth biggest day ever for international visitors, and the biggest day in the past three years for audiovisual content on the site.

This comes just weeks after the government announced the end of the corporation as we know it, with the promise of no further charter and a potential end to the licence fee. 

Trusted publishers of print publications are also reaping the benefits, especially those who have pivoted on to new platforms.

The esteemed Financial Times hosted a digital live event for which 5,000 subscribers registered, featuring commentary from its Moscow bureau chief Max Seddon, world news editor Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, and chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman. The FT will run Twitter Spaces with its columnists for live frontline updates and is shifting its entire output on the Telegram messaging channel to focus on Ukraine coverage. 

The Guardian was one of the media outlets that came out of the pandemic years with a higher trust score than it had in 2020, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, and it is bringing this clout into the coverage of the Ukraine conflict.

The paper’s website had over 75m page views in a single day as readers devoured updates – with 12m people visiting the Ukraine live blog alone, making it the tenth most-read Guardian story of all time.

New names are quickly emerging as trusted sources of information from Ukraine, such as the Kyiv Independent which now has 1.5m followers getting its frontline updates from inside the city.

However, whether from established sources or newcomers, the situation has restored a much-needed layer of respect, trust and confidence in the media to bring us the breaking news and inside analysis we all need to know.

In this multi platform, multi channel world, where anyone with a phone is a citizen journalist, keeping hold of this goodwill when they’re not just seen as a fourth ‘emergency service’ will be the hardest act of all.


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