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Why is trust in the media plummeting? Becky Anderson on the business of truth-telling

Becky Anderson shares her views on the state of media and the ongoing challenge of staying relevant.

Why is trust in the media plummeting? Becky Anderson on the business of truth-telling
[Source photo: Venkat Reddy/Fast Company Middle East]

In recent years, trust in the media has declined dramatically. The rise of fake news, post-truth, and misinformation has challenged the media’s ability to provide accurate and unbiased information. 

The “trust deficit” in media needs to be addressed as “misleading information is dressed up as facts,” says Becky Anderson, Managing Editor of CNN Abu Dhabi, when we met her at CNN’s brand new broadcast facility in Abu Dhabi. 

CNN Abu Dhabi

The new Abu Dhabi hub incorporates the latest broadcast technology. Its 80 square metre studio, which will be home to CNN International’s flagship current affairs program, Connect the World with Becky Anderson, incorporates 10 million pixels of video wall and a suite of fully robotic cameras.

An accomplished journalist with a career spanning three decades, Anderson, who hosts Connect the World with Becky Anderson, has reported on extraordinary times of upheaval and change in the Middle East – from Tehran and Riyadh to Beirut and Tunisia, including the Arab Spring and the recent Turkey-Syria earthquake. 

While technology has changed, she says little has changed in reporting the news. 



The commitment to accurately report remains untouched, says Anderson, even if there is “divisive truth-telling,” with social media often acting as an echo chamber to perpetuate lies.

“We must ensure we give people a voice, shed light on stories, hold truth to power, and most importantly, verify the information.”

The importance of on-ground reporting is equally valuable. “I was on the ground almost immediately after the earthquake struck Turkey and Syria.” 

Through traditional reporting and innovative digital approaches, Anderson says the goal has always been to “inform, educate and engage” global audiences.


On the mainstream western media, which has sometimes been accused of dropping objectivity and accuracy in covering stories related to the Middle East, Anderson says, “Western media have a stereotypical impression of the Middle East.” And this view, she says, is perhaps based on stories of conflict, inequality, and poverty. While these issues are crucial, “it’s important to open the aperture on the lens and begin to ensure that we are telling stories about the region and from this region,” she says. Moreover, as media professionals, “we have a responsibility to shed light on emerging trends.”

The problem of perpetuating stereotypes exists; however, Anderson says the aim is to challenge biased perceptions. 

Education is equally important. To breed new talent to tell authentic stories, she says the region has made significant strides. “It’s not just the appetite to evolve but also the physical infrastructure to carry it out.” She cites the Yas Creative Hub in Abu Dhabi as a “game changer” for incubating talent.

“Fostering local talent is a huge responsibility,” she adds. 

CNN Academy has been training young journalists from the UAE and beyond – giving them the tools and skills to report news and tell compelling stories.


Anderson has her eyes on leveraging emerging technology to tell more powerful stories accurately. She’s most excited about the potential of forensic journalism. “The combination of open source analysis with new tools of verification, geolocation, and data-led journalism combined with traditional journalism provides a new layer to what we do as journalists.”

When asked what is the most challenging aspect of steering the newsroom, she says, “information overload.” “Everything needs to be fact-checked and verified so that people who see things on social media ensure that it is verified.” 

“That’s the confidence we want people to have in us.” 

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More