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ARTICLE: The news will find you, but that might not make you wiser

Picture: Spyglass by Meridy, license CC0 1.0

Even in a saturated online media environment, active seeking for news is needed for learning about politics, write Homero Gil de Zúñiga, of the University of Vienna, Brian Weeks, of the University of Michigan, and Alberto Ardèvol-Abreu, of the Universidad de La Laguna.

Their article studies the concept of news-finds-me perception, i.e. “the extent to which individuals believe they can indirectly stay informed about public affairs—despite not actively following the news”, and the effects of this phenomenon. The authors analyzed survey data collected in the United States, matching the U.S. census for gender, age, education, and income.

News enhance political knowledge best when they are actively sought. The results showed that people who perceive news will find them in social media are less likely to use traditional media. They are also less knowledgeable about politics over time.

Problematically, having a false sense that “news will find me” can be detrimental to one’s level of knowledge, the authors write. People may be frequently exposed to news and politics in social media, but it will not translate into political knowledge without active seeking for information.

Social media affects the role of news in our lives. It may “in part be contributing to a more participatory but less knowledgeable public”, the authors conclude.

The article ”Effects of the News-Finds-Me Perception in Communication” was published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication and is available online (free abstract).

Picture: Spyglass by Meridy, license CC0 1.0

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