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ARTICLE: Transparency does not make journalism more credible

Untitled by Devanath, licence CC0 1.0

Increased transparency does not increase the perceived credibility of journalism, but rather decreases it, Edson C. Tandoc, of Nanyang University of Technology, and Ryan J. Thomas, of Missouri School of Journalism, write. The authors conducted an online experiment with 222 American college students.

The participants were assigned to read through a selection of online news articles. The articles appeared either on a (fake) news website or a blog. Some were written in an objective style while others were clearly opinionated. Finally, some articles were accompanied by personal information about the author’s interests, while others simply stated the author’s name and occupation.

As was expected by Tandoc and Thomas, objective articles were rated both more credible and more newsworthy. Surprisingly the story platform, either a blog or a news website, had no overall effect on credibility or newsworthiness.

The credibility-damaging effect of opinion seems to be stronger for blogs than for news websites. When written in objective style, blog posts are actually seen as more credible than traditional news – opinionated blogs, however, are less credible than opinionated traditional news.

Transparency was also found to decrease the stories’ credibility. No interaction effects were found this time: additional information about the writer decreases a story’s credibility regardless of platform. Newsworthiness, however, appears unaffected.

The article “Readers value objectivity over transparency” was published by the journal Newspaper Research Journal. It is available online (abstract free).

Picture: Untitled by Devanath, licence CC0 1.0.

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