Facts can't get through to readers only reading one kind of political coverage

Posted September 8, 2016

The idea that facts trump opinon may be the latest casualty of the modern news media environment, a new study has found.

The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication reported that Americans who only read media outlets that confirm their political beliefs are less likely to believe fact-checking. Researchers polled more than 1,000 Americans and found that those who consumed information from either liberal or conservative outlets but not a mixture were significantly more likely to believe misconceptions and errors of fact surrounding the 2012 presidential election.

"The study's conclusion that there may be a relationship between partisan media use and political misconceptions is one that should be taken seriously," the Poynter Institute reported.

Yet this problem was inevitable with the public less willing than ever to trust the media's objectivity and more people getting their news online, which some research has shown can impact information comprehension.

These trends have led some, like contributors for the Huffington Post, New York Times and technology journalists to bemoan a "post-fact society."

Yet Poynter argues that the knee-jerk reaction to pronounce society void of facts is merely a coping mechanism for commentators (sometimes confused for journalists) to deflect attacks on their personal belief systems.

"When the political realities are as alien to a liberal-cosmopolitan world view as Donald Trump's candidacy or Brexit, it can be easier to explain them away by painting 2016 as an apocalyptic 'post-truth' era where people are just not getting the importance of facts," Poynter's Alexios Mantzarlis reported.

The problem is relatively easily dealt with as long as Americans try something radical: Read news outlets with perspectives different from their own.

"If the spread of misconceptions is worsened by partisan news consumption, a more balanced media diet could provide one way out of the tunnel," Poynter reported.


Twitter: ChandraMJohnson


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