The Role of journalists during the covid-19 pandemic : the relationship between journalism roles and media trust

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Communication


Department of Communication


Chad Painter


In the midst of a public health crisis, the public seeks information to help make sense of the world around them. The news media in particular are considered a primary source for that information and context. Historically, journalists have followed a set of roles and responsibilities to ensure that they serve the public well, also known as social responsibility theory. The study investigates what roles the public perceives that journalists are fulfilling both on a day-to-day basis and in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, the study investigates if perceived role fulfillment predicts how much trust the public has in news organizations. The study also worked to learn if the type of news consumption is related to media trust. Overall, it was found that perceived role fulfillment does not predict media trust and the type of news consumption is not related to media trust. The findings indicate that perhaps there is a disconnect between the traditional journalism roles and what the public looks for in a trusted news source. Additional themes suggest that the relationship between the public and the news media would benefit from an open conversation and reevaluation of what is expected of one another in order for journalists to gain further trust from the public and fulfill the long-standing roles and responsibilities they ought to be fulfilling.


Communication, media trust, journalism roles, role fulfillment, facilitator, social responsibility theory

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