Monday, June 8, 2009

People Choose News That Fits Their Views

LiveScience reports:

News readers gorge on media messages that fit their pre-existing views, rather than graze on a wider range of perspectives. In other words, they consume what they agree with, researchers say.

The finding comes out of a recent study which tracked how college students spent their time reading media articles on hot-button issues such as abortion or gun ownership.


Only 5 percent of online news readers go to political blogs on a daily basis, according to a new book by a different researcher, yet many represent the most politically active consumers of the news.

Such readers may prefer blogs over mainstream media sources because they suspect bias in the latter, said Richard Davis, a political scientist at Brigham Young University in Utah.

"They're clearly disenchanted with traditional media," Davis said. "That's why they read blogs in the first place — in their view, they see blogs as more accurate."

Davis worked with several independent firms to conduct nationally representative public opinion surveys of both political blog readers and journalists for his book, "Typing Politics" (Oxford University Press, 2009). He also focused on seven of the top political blogs, which at the time included Daily Kos on the left and Michelle Malkin on the right.

Such political blogs are up front with their political views, and typically "echo" the news reported by traditional journalists while adding their own spin or analysis.

But among the hardcore political junkies, 30 percent told the survey that blogs are more accurate, whereas only 8 percent said traditional media was more accurate. About 40 percent gave equal marks to both.

This trust in blogs over traditional media does not carry over to general readers, Davis cautioned. Less frequent blog readers usually give equal weight to blogs and traditional media. And overall, general readers still put more faith in traditional media.


The section on blogs interested me the most and the line about 'adding their own spin or analysis' seemed obvious to me as the reason for 'blogging' on a particular topic in the first place. After all, that is what blogging is all about on a political blog.

Yet I must point out that the source of the original topic must be both accurate and unbiased. For example, I seldom quote The Daily Kos or Buzzflash as a 'reference,' yet it may point me to the original news story on a mainstream site like CNN or BBC.

What is particularly annoying and clearly specious is the tendency of a blogger to search for 'news' from an obviously biased 'news' source. Our blogging friends in the fundamentalist christian camp often display 'facts' that are at best questionable and often lies.

In fact, I ran into that just the other day. Toledo's oh-so righteous, fundamentalist christian blogger put up a posting with the title,'NO GAY GENE!' This blogger is obsessed with homosexuality, abomination, and her version of sin and thus 'found' a 'scientific' article that 'proves' that God did not create homosexuals. [if God DID create homosexuals, then the Old Testament would be a worthless dossier of scribblings by an ancient nomadic tribe.]

The 'source' for this 'news' is 'OneNewsNow.'

Ever heard of it? Probably not. The about us link identifies the goal of OneNewsNow:

Your Latest News from a Christian perspective

Whether it's a story about prayer in public schools, workplace restrictions on Christians, or battles for biblical truth within our denominations, the American Family News Network (AFN) is here to tell you what the newsmakers are saying.

The latest 'news' from a Christian perspective. Well, imagine that.

Back to the NO GAY GENE! post. The blog mistress begins with this line from OneNewsNow:

The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" -- meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are born that way.

The bold print is important, especially the last part, 'meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are born that way.'

This is very important to fundamentalist christians. Very important. Their entire belief system rests on that sandy foundation- the belief that homosexuality is a choice that a person makes. They already have lost 'evolution' to science and have spun 'intelligent design' to plug the hole in the ever rising dam. Yet, if they lose the homosexuality argument, their sand castle washes away in the deluge.

'Meaning it's not likely...'

News? Spin? Ruby slippers? Great spin disguised as a bit of science news.

Yet it must be comforting to that blogger to find a 'source' of news which bolsters her own imagination, her beliefs. Sadly for her, mainstream media doesn't and science news sources reveal damaging new discoveries on a daily basis. Avoidance is bliss.

I often remark that blogs like the one referenced above are a real hoot. Well, they are!

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