Rodrigo Duterte has single-handedly discredited the media in the six years he was in office.

Immensely popular as a leader, many Filipinos believed him when he labelled some legacy media outlets as biased and journalists as paid hacks.

In 2016, before his inauguration, he already accused journalists of taking bribes from politicians.

You cannot blame Duterte. Perhaps he was used to the practice of handing out cash to reporters during interviews and press conferences. But there are exceptions.

His personal assistant, Bong Go, had tried giving 1,000 pesos to a group of Filipino journalists working in foreign news agencies in 2016, but he was politely turned down.

It was unfair for Duterte to make sweeping accusations of corruption against the media when he himself was among the enablers, offering cash and some other things to the press.

When he was elected into office, his social media influencers and paid keyboard warriors started amplifying his attacks on the media, calling them partisan and accusing them of supporting his political enemies—the so-called “Dilawan.”

As a result, public trust in news brands, like ABS-CBN and Rappler, had fallen since 2020, based on surveys done by the Oxford University’s Reuters Institute on its annual Digital News Report (DNR).

Among 15 news brands listed in the survey for this year, Rappler was at the bottom while ABS-CBN, which was denied a legislative franchise to operate in 2020, was at the 13th spot.

Only 52 percent of the more than 2,000 respondents said they trusted ABS-CBN while Rappler only had 46 percent trust. The two news brands also had the highest distrust—32 percent for Rappler and 27 percent for ABS-CBN.

In contrast, most of the other news brands had only 10 percent to 14 percent distrust.

But, overall the trust rating of legacy media in the Philippines rose 10 points from 2020 when public trust sank to 27 percent, one of the lowest in the world.

Out of 46 countries surveyed, trust ratings in many countries fell except for seven, including the Philippines.

The rise in public trust has something to do with the coronavirus pandemic as Filipinos sought accurate and more reliable information about the disease.

Public trust rose to 32 percent in 2021 and another 5 points to 37 percent in 2022 when the survey was done in late January to early February 2022.

However, the overall trust rating for the Philippines was still below the global average of 42 percent. The country remained heavily polarized as Filipinos continued to avoid consuming news about politics.

Globally, the majority of the respondents turned away from the news media and in some cases disconnected from news altogether.

Interest in news has fallen sharply across countries, from 63 percent in 2017 to 51 percent in 2022.

Consumption of news in traditional media, such as TV and print, declined further in the last year with online and social media consumption not making up the gap.

The Reuters Institute survey also showed that respondents were avoiding news because it had a negative effect on their mood. A significant proportion of younger and less educated people also said they avoided news because it could be hard to follow or understand.

Based on the survey, 29 percent of the global respondents said news was untrustworthy or biased and another 29 percent said they were worn out by the amount of news.

About 17 percent avoided news because they said it only led to arguments.

This is a wake up call for the legacy media which have to innovate and retool the delivery of news to make them more palatable to the people.

For instance, the news media could do much more to simplify language and better explain or contextualize complex stories to attract more people to consume news.

In the Philippines, the respondents prefer to consume news on social media rather than the traditional sources, like television, radio, and newspapers. Television news’ reach declined from 66 percent in 2020 to 60 percent this year, the survey showed.

The shift to social media and online sites of traditional media continued while the use of smartphones to access news has reached 80 percent of the sample.

Facebook led the way with about 73 percent but Tiktok showed a dramatic increase from only 2 percent in 2020 to 15 percent in 2022.

The Reuters Institute 2022 survey mirrored a local opinion poll that showed that about 50 percent of Filipinos got their information about candidates in the May elections from social media, higher than 40 percent for television and less than 1 percent for newspapers.

The legacy media in the Philippines can learn from more advanced countries in trying to get Filipinos interested in news.

News organizations abroad have been embracing new approaches such as “solutions” journalism, around subjects like climate change, that aim to give people a sense of hope or personal agency.

Others have been looking to find ways to widen the agenda to softer subjects or make news more relevant at a personal level. There could also be difficulty for many people—the younger audiences and less educated groups, to understand journalism as practiced. This could relate to the complexity of the language or assumed knowledge often contained in news reports.

But the increase in news consumption through social media or word of mouth through friends and family, may also be playing a part.

The Reuters Institute survey showed that news is often accessed by young people in more fragmented ways, meaning that people sometimes miss key context that was previously carefully packaged into linear narratives by the mainstream media.

That’s why many news organizations have resorted to using explainer and question-and-answer formats to try to address these issues on websites and through social media to engage younger and less educated audiences. There are certainly many tools to make news more engaging and compelling to make audiences pay attention to news.

But it would help a lot if the government and tech companies, like Google and Facebook, find ways to minimize disinformation and propaganda in social media.

It poisons the information ecosystem, discrediting legacy media and the journalists. The incoming administration under Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr can do a lot to restore trust in the legacy media.

Marcos Jr. should refrain from attacking the legacy media and police the ranks of social media content creators, vloggers and influencers. Civil society and other sectors, including schools, business and the church must also play their part in fighting disinformation.

Journalists must do their own part as well, reporting accurately, fairly, balanced and unbiased based on facts.

Disinformation cannot fool the people all the time. There could be disinformation fatigue.

There is still hope for the legacy media to regain public trust. The Reuters Institute study showed an incremental increase in the level of trust. The legacy media must not lose its focus. It will prevail in the end.