What’s There New in the News?

In their article “Al-Jazeera English and Global Networks,” Shawn Powers and Mohammed el-Nawawy talk about media system dependency theory and how there is a relationship between people’s reliance on news from a particular news source (like BBC World, CNNI, or AJE) and their political opinions and attitudes. One of their findings was that people tend to turn to particular broadcasters to affirm their existing opinions rather than to change them, thus reinforcing existing cultural clichés about cultural ‘others.’ This is quite a disappointing conclusion given all the hopes for the global media to promote a more cosmopolitan and tolerant outlook. Interestingly enough, their second finding was that those people who watched Al-Jazeera English tended to be less dogmatic in their thinking.

Another recent piece of research has revealed that of all news channels, Fox News viewers are the least informed. In the study, respondents were asked questions about the recent events of the Arab Spring, widely covered in the US by almost all news broadcasters. The results of the research showed that Fox News viewers were 18 points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those respondents who were not TV viewers. Fox News viewers even scored lower than those respondents who claimed not to watch news at all!

What is more interesting, however, is that the same researchers found that 11% of MSNBC viewers believed that Occupy Wall Street protesters were Republicans, while only 3% of Fox viewers believed so. As Dan Cassino, a professor of political science, noted, “People who tune into ideological media are motivated to hear their side of the debate and so you can have someone who watches MSNBC be so used to hearing about protests coming from the right that they automatically believe that Occupy is mostly a Republican protest.”

These findings demonstrate the ambiguity of the role global media play in the promotion of cultural awareness and tolerance. It is especially important to remember the nichefication of media outlets and the emergence of highly ideological media, which tends to attract those viewers who hold extreme political views and are not looking to reconsider them. “News” presented by these media is often just a euphemism for propaganda.

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2 thoughts on “What’s There New in the News?

  1. Emily Grantham says:

    I think this subject is extremely interesting. I have often wondered what the effects of only watching certain news stations could have on certain parts of the population, and I do think that parts of it can be quite alarming (especially when I hear some of things my grandparents say after watching Fox all day) but I would interested to know where this research came from. I have always tried to read more than one newspaper per day (sad story- I don’t own a tv), usually going for several of the main big ones and then a few local, and it is sometimes quite striking how the vocabulary used can spin a story. Other times, the news sources seemed to contradict each other all together. One of the first examples that pops in my head was from when DSK was in hot water over the maid incident in NY and all of the American papers were saying how upset French people were over the way he was treated. I turned to Le Monde for some confirmation of the outrage, and instead found several articles with a rather disgusted tone over the whole thing. Anyway, I think it’s an important issue that needs to be carefully looked at in the future.

  2. rkmattern says:

    It’s always interesting when I go home and start conversations with people in my town and how little they actually know about the world around them because they are literally focusing on what they hear from others, who usually hear it from Fox. But unfortunately people aren’t going to change their attitudes on the media because they don’t believe they’re ignorant, they’re doing what they’ve always done and that’s getting news from gossip around town or Fox or whatever source they use. And it is extremely hard to change their ideas when they have information wrong. It can be extremely frustrating but it is one of those things that is true across our country, once people are set in their ways it is very hard to change. Even though they know Fox doesn’t provide 100 percent non-biased coverage they are still going to watch it, because it’s what they’re used to. It will be really hard to change people from what they know and are used to unless we just continue to provide them with more options get rid of the ignorance that exists.

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