Examining Audience Trust of Official Source and Whistleblower Information Disclosure in News Stories


  • Stephenson Waters University of Louisiana at Lafayette




The use of whistleblowers as sources is an important part of journalistic practice. Does news media’s reporting on information disclosed by whistleblowers affect audience trust — an already shaky relationship that has been strained over the past few decades? This study performed a 2 x 2 between subjects online experiment to test audience trust in whistleblowers and official sources, manipulating the source (official source/whistleblower) and gender (male/female) of a single news story. Preliminary findings include self-identified conservatives trusted whistleblowers more than official sources, while liberals reported the opposite. Also, considering the predominant historical use of males as official sources in stories, women were found to be overall more trustworthy than men in nearly all conditions. This research is a work in progress, though limitations and opportunities for future research are also discussed.