In the spiral of mistrust: On the decline of public trust in Czech journalists


  • Jaromír Volek Masaryk University
  • Marína Urbániková Masaryk University



Czech journalists, mistrusting audiences, political orientation, trust


This paper analyses the change of public trust in journalists in the Czech Republic and investigates the main characteristics of mistrusting audiences. Comparative analysis based on two representative surveys of the Czech population reveals that public trust in journalists declined by a third between 2004 and 2016. Mistrust is on the rise especially among: a socio-economically de­prived media consumers b with leftist political orientation c belonging to the youngest cohort. The analysis also indicates a split of the ideal-typical image of a journalist as a highly-educated advocate of socially vulnerable groups, and suggests the return of a perception of journalists as establishment representatives which prevailed during the previous “real socialist” regime.

Author Biographies

Jaromír Volek, Masaryk University

Jaromír Volek, Ph.D., is professor at Masaryk University, Czech Republic. His research interests focus on post-communist journalism, media audiences, critical theories of media, and content analysis of media representations of the European Union. His publications include the books and over a few dozen articles and book chapters about transformations of Czech journalists and their public trust in the post- transformation phase, about the mechanisms of the media audiences fragmentation and media literacy. Since 2013 he has been a member of the international project DIMLE (Digital International Media Literacy eBook Project). He cooperates with RRTV — the Czech media regulatory board as one of the experts in content analysis and media representation of local and general elections.

Marína Urbániková, Masaryk University

Marína Urbániková, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the Department of Media Studies and Journalism, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She has been recently involved in a research project entitled “Czech Journalists in a Comparative Perspective: an Analysis of the Process of Professionalization, Professional Socialization, and Journalistic Career” funded by the Czech Science Foundation (GACR). Her research interests include journalism education, journalism students, journalists and their professionalization, media systems, and research methods.


Allcott, H., Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Journal of Eco-nomic Perspectives, 31(2), pp. 211–236.

Bartels, L.M. (1993). Messages received: The political impact of media exposure. American Political Science Review, 87(2), pp. 267–285.

Bryant, J., Davies, J. (2008). Selective Exposure. In: Donsbach, W. (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Communication. Malden, Oxford, Carlton: Blackwell Publishing.

Carter, R.F., Greenberg, B.S. (1965). Newspapers or Television: Which Do You Believe? Journalism Quarterly, 42, pp. 29–34.

CVVM. (2015). Důvěra některým institucím veřejného života v říjnu 2015. [Trust in Selected Public Institutions in October 2015] Retrieved May 10, 2017 from form2content/documents/c1/a7447/f3/po151119.pdf.

Czech Social Science Data Archive of the Czech Institute of Sociology [Data file]. Retrieved May 10, 2017 from

Dennis, E.E. (1997). How ‘liberalʼ are the media anyway: The continual conflict of professionalism and partisanship. Journal of Press/Politics, 2 (4), pp. 115–119.

Domke, D., Watts, M.D., Shah, D.V., Fan, D.P. (1999). The politics of conservative elites and the liberal media argument. Journal of Communication, 49(4), pp. 35–58.

Donohue, G.A., Tichenor, P.J., Olien, C.N. (1995). A guard dog perspective on the role of media. Journal of Communication, 45(2), pp. 115–132.

Eurobarometer (2016). Public Opinion: Trust in Institutions [Data file]. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from

European Values Think Tank (2016). Recommendation for the Czech strategy against systematic dis-information campaigns of foreign powers. Kremlin Watch Policy Paper. 13.06.2016. Retrieved May 10, 2017 from

Farnsworth, S.J., Lichter, S.R. (2011). The contemporary presidency. The return of the honeymoon: Television news coverage of new presidents, 1981–2009. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41(3), pp. 590–603.

Gallup Poll (2016). Confidence in Mass Media. Retrieved May 10, 2017 from file/poll/195575/Confidence_in_Mass_Media_160914%20.pdf.

Gellner, E. (1990). Trust, cohesion, and the social order. In: Gambetta, D. (ed.), Trust: Making and breaking cooperative relations. Oxford, Cambridge: Basil Blackwell.

Gerber, A.S., Green, D.P. (2000). The effects of canvassing, telephone calls, and direct mail on voter turnout: A field experiment. American Political Science Review, 94(3), pp. 653–663.

Globsec Policy Institute (2016). Globsec Trends. Central Europe under the fire of propaganda: Public opinion poll analysis in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. Retrieved May 10, 2017 from

Glynn, C.J., Huge, M.E. (2014). Speaking in spirals: An updated meta-analysis of the spiral of silence. In: Donsbach, W., Salmon, C.T., Tsfati, Y. (eds.), The spiral of silence: New perspectives on communication and public opinion. New York, London: Routledge.

Greenberg, B.S. (1966). Media Use and Believability: Some Multiple Correlates. Journalism Quarterly, 43, pp. 665–670.

Gronke, P., Cook, T.E. (2007). Disdaining the media: The American public’s changing attitudes toward the news. Political Communication, 24(3), pp. 259–281.

Gunther, A.C. (1992). Biased press or biased public? Attitudes toward media coverage of social groups. Public Opinion Quarterly, 56(2), pp. 147–167.

Hallin, D.C., Mancini, P. (2004). Comparing media systems. Three models of media and politics. Cam-bridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hoffner, C., Rehkoff, R.A. (2011). Young voters’ responses to the 2004 U.S. presidential election: Social identity, perceived media influence, and behavioral outcomes. Journal of Communication, 61(4), pp. 732–757.

Jackob, N.G.E. (2010). No Alternatives? The Relationship between Perceived Media, Use of Alternative Information Sources, and General Trust in Mass Media. International Journal of Communication, 4, pp. 589–606.

Johnson, T.J., Kaye, B.K. (1998) . Cruising is believing? Comparing the Internet and traditional sources on media credibility measures. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 75(2), pp. 325–245.

Kiousis, S. (2001). Public trust or mistrust? Perceptions of media credibility in the information Age. Mass Communication & Society, 4(4), pp. 381–403.

Kovach, B., Rosenstiel, T. (2001). The elements of journalism: What news people should know and the public should expect. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Lee, T.T. (2005). The liberal media myth revisited: An examination of factors influencing media bias perception. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 49(1), pp. 43–64.

Lee, T.T. (2010). Why they don’t trust the media: An examination of factors predicting trust. American Behavioral Scientist, 54(1), pp. 8–21.

Luhmann, N. (1990). Familiarity, confidence, trust: Problems and alternatives. In: Gambetta, D. (ed.), Trust: Making and breaking cooperative relations. Oxford, Cambridge: Basil Blackwell.

Mead, G.H. (1934). Mind, self and society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Mierina, I. (2011). Political participation and development of political attitudes in post-communist countries. PhD Thesis, Riga: University of Latvia.

Mishler, W., Rose, R. (2005). What are the political consequences of trust? A test of cultural and institutional theories in Russia. Comparative Political Studies, 38(9), pp. 1050–1078.

Muller, J. (2013). Mechanisms of trust. News media in democratic and authoritarian regimes. Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag.

Newman, N., Fletcher, R., Levy, D.A.L., Nielsen, R.K. (2016). Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2016. Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Retrieved May 10, 2017 from http://

Norris, P. (1999). Institutional explanations for political support. In: Norris, P. (ed.), Critical citizens:

Global support for democratic governance. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rose, R. (1994). Postcommunism and the problem of trust. Journal of Democracy, 5(3): pp. 18–30. Smith, S.M., Fabrigar, L.R., Norris, M.E. (2008). Reflecting on six decades of selective exposure research: Progress, challenges, and opportunities. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2(1), pp. 464–493.

Sullivan, L.E. (2009). Selective Exposure. In: Sullivan, L.E. (ed.), The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Sztompka, P. (1992). Dilemmas of the great transition. Sisyphus, 2(8), pp. 9–28.

Sztompka, P. (2000). Trust: A sociological theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tepljuk, V.M. (1989). The Soviet Union: Professional responsibility in mass media. In: Cooper, T.W., Christians, C.G., Plude, F.F., White, R.A. (eds.), Communication ethics and global change. New York: Longman.

Tsfati, Y. (2003). Media scepticism and climate of opinion perception. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 15(1), pp. 65–82.

Tsfati, Y., Ariely, G. (2014). Individual and Contextual Correlates of Trust in Media Across 44 Countries. Communication Research, 41(6), pp. 760–782.

Tsfati, Y., Cappella, J.N. (2003). Do people watch what they do not trust? Exploring the association between news media scepticism and exposure. Communication Research, 30(5), pp. 504–529.

Tsfati, Y., Peri, Y. (2006). Mainstream media scepticism and exposure to extra-national and sectorial news media: The case of Israel. Mass Communication and Society, 9(2), pp. 165–187.

Westley, B., Severin, W.J. (1964). Some Correlates of Media Credibility. Journalism Quarterly, 41, pp. 325–335.




How to Cite

Volek, J., & Urbániková, M. . (2017). In the spiral of mistrust: On the decline of public trust in Czech journalists . Central European Journal of Communication, 10(2(19), 159-179.



Scientific Papers