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'You can trust me - I'm a journalist'

Nobody trusts a journalist or a politican, says Yvonne Cook. What's worse is that they don't even trust each other.

Journalists are among the least-trusted members of society, below sales people and only a notch above politicians. That's the - to some - startling verdict of a survey of working managers and other professionals who have graduated with an MBA from the OUBS (Open University Business School).

David Mercer, Director of the OUBS Futures Observatory, has been investigating who are the most and least trusted people in society, using a panel of MBA alumni. They were asked to give a "trust rating" to 11 groups of people in society, using a scale from 0 to 10.

Not surprisingly, family and friends are the top on the trust scale. At the bottom, the lepers of society are politicians, journalists and sales people.

It is the extent to which politicians and journalists are distrusted that is perhaps so surprising.

Absolutely nobody trusted them completely, and only a third of their fellow professionals gave them a rating above 2.5 - the lowest band, David Mercer revealed.

The journalists dismal average trust rating of 2.1 isn't restricted to those employed on the tabloid or "red-top" press; the managers in the survey are people who are more likely to be reading broadsheets, than tabloids, he says.

"I think to a large extent even the broadsheets now are seen as having got into the gutter - they will chase anybody if they think they can bring them down."

And the politicians last-place rating of 1.7 does not bode well for a flourishing democracy in future. Forty-one percent of the managers surveyed said they had no trust whatsoever in politicians. Perhaps it is because we feel politicians don't trust us that we wonder why we should trust them.

Between the lepers and the loved ones are the mid-range 5s and 6s, who are colleagues, doctors, teachers, "the boss", the police - and senior managers. The surprising thing is how much those surveyed trust their own bosses, says David; "- almost as much as they trust colleagues and doctors." But, he points out, the survey was carried out before the conviction for mass murder of a family doctor. Senior management rates lower, but well above the leper group.

Trusting the wrong person can have terrible consequences, as the Shipman case revealed. But David Mercer believes trust will become increasingly important in a world dominated by cyberspace and the Internet: "Intangibles are becoming the new staples of society. If you cannot literally touch it, you have to place your trust in something or someone."

But can we, then, trust surveys? David points out OUBS alumni are a unique source of information about what people at middle and senior management level, across a wide range of industries, are thinking - "important because people in such positions have, potentially, more influence on what organisations and governments do, or will do in the future."