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Trust in News Media in post-Communist Eastern Europe: The Case of Serbia

Author: 
Pjesivac, Ivanka Radovic
Committee Members: 
Dr. Catherine A. Luther
Date: 
August 2014

Abstract: 

The main purpose of this dissertation research was to examine the influences of cultural and performance factors on trust in news media in Serbia. This was done by conducting a survey on a stratified random sample of the Serbian population (N=544). Before testing cultural and performance theories, this dissertation explored the meanings of trust in news media and trust in other people in Serbia, in order to properly operationalize these concepts and establish their conceptual equivalence needed for their adequate measurement. This was done by 20 in-depth interviews with representatives of the Serbian population. The results of this dissertation study showed that both cultural and performance factors play a role in determining trust in news media in Serbia. However, the performance explanation, measured as assessments of news media corruption, was found to be slightly more powerful than the cultural explanation, measured as generalized trust, or trust in people that we don’t know personally. In addition, the results of this dissertation study showed that more than 20 years after the fall of Communism and 13 years after the fall of Slobodan Milošević’s authoritative regime, the pervasiveness of distrust remains present in Serbia. Serbians who participated in this study expressed skepticism about their news media and distrust of people they don’t know personally. Conceptualizing trust in news media as well as trust in other people in the same way as their Western counterparts, Serbians thought that Western standards, necessary for trust in news media and other people to occur, such as fair selectivity of news, objectivity, neutrality, accuracy in reporting or sincerity in helping other people, were not met or applicable in their country.