The Chinese University of Hong Kong set off alarm bells last week when it stated that public trust in the local media had dropped to a new all-time low.
In its latest survey, 971 people were canvassed.
In the first part, pollsters rattled off the names of 29 media organizations and asked respondents to give each a score.
In the second part, they were asked to rate the media as a whole. The results basically reflected how the public perceives the industry and its members.
The average overall rating was 6.18 points out of 10 - compared to the previous low of 6.36 recorded in 2010.
Journalism professor Clement So York-kee, who led the study, observed that the alarming results may have been affected by biased and inaccurate reports by some media organizations, as well as bitterly polarized views in society.
Whereas Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of press freedom, the poll results show this has no direct connection with credibility.
The proliferation of internet news is bound to be a factor. While it's up to the public to judge whether online news is credible, the answer seems obvious. There have been times when incidents were blown way out of proportion in social media.
Compared to traditional news- gathering methods, a lot of internet news is published before the facts are verified.
However, there were also silver linings in the survey. Some media organizations have improved while others retreated.
There is no question that Ming Pao suffered the most. After losing its title as the most credible Chinese-language daily to the Hong Kong Economic Times, Ming Pao had to stop ballyhooing the slogan on its masthead - lest it be challenged with reference to the trade description ordinance.
But there were examples of improvement.
Take The Standard for example. This newspaper got a score of 6.71 - making it the fourth most credible daily - up from a 6.5 score and sixth place in 2010.
The other local English-language paper, the South China Morning Post, continues to occupy top spot with a score of 6.98.
Among free newspapers only, The Standard is the most credible. Respondents were asked to rate six free dailies and their rankings, in order of credibility, are The Standard, Headline Daily, Am730, Metro Daily, Sky Post and Sharp Daily, which has shut down.
So why is The Standard viewed as the most credible freebie? Perhaps public sentiment remains favorable to the English medium, and The Standard benefits from this perception.
There is no denying that diligent efforts made by this newspaper are recognized by a wider spectrum of society. Only three paid dailies are ahead of The Standard, while the others trail in terms of credibility.
It will continue to be a tough challenge for free papers. They have fewer resources to operate with, while facing keen competition from the growth of internet news.