How a gun story stirred the pot on media distrust

EARLIER this week The Daily Examiner published a story about the number of registered firearms in the region.

However, several people on our Facebook page became defensive about the publication of this information.

"Good old Daily Exaggerator … Can't report the news, has to spew the Greens propaganda and scaremongering," one posted.

"And what exactly is this article trying to prove that it's dangerous to live where there are lots of law-abiding firearms owners? Tell me DEX as this sort of info seems like some scaremongering," another added.


Are you living in an area that’s home to more registered firearms than any other postcodes in the Clarence Valley?

Posted by The Daily Examiner on Sunday, 14 June 2020


While disappointing to read more than a dozen similar comments, I'm not surprised by them.

During times of uncertainty or when major tragedies unfold, suspicion toward our publication inevitably bubbles up on social media.

Our 2019 bushfire stories were declared Greens, Labor, Liberal, even Communist propaganda depending which Facebook comment you read. Early local coverage of the coronavirus was shot down as scaremongering, while a handful of local tragedies were labelled 'fake news'.

Rather than turn to reliable news sources during times of crisis, sadly, as one study found, distrust and cynicism take precedence because believing outlandish claims and conspiracy theories provides a sense of meaning and security within the unpredictable world we're living in.

Furthermore, "People who believe in conspiracy theories can feel "special," in a positive sense, because they may feel that they are more informed than others about important social and political events." [Lantian et al. (2017)]

One need only visit celebrity chef Pete Evans' Facebook page to prove this point.

Personally, I don't mind when people interpret texts differently to their intended meaning; that's what literary criticism is all about. (A feminist reading of any Disney fairy tale will ruin your childhood forever!)

But when it comes to local information from your local newspaper, there's an important distinction between fake news and news you simply don't like.