Blogs and the Mainstream Media

I talked Friday with a colleague in Communications who described a current research project and its puzzling results.  He asked people about the credibility of blogs and the credibility of articles in the mainstream press.  Blogs scored lower: “Anybody can write anything in a blog,” people thought.  But then he had people read “posts” in blogs and “articles” in the mainstream media on a particular topic (in this case, food poisoning).  He proceeded to ask them questions about the credibility of what they had read.  Now, blogs scored much higher than the mainstream media!  This wasn’t due to anything about the particular posts or articles; the same text that was a “post” for one subject was an “article” for another.  He has no idea how to interpret the results, and thinks that people are just confused.

I don’t think so.  Here’s my suggestion.  People realize that anyone can say anything on a blog.  But they also think they can  screen out bias, incompetence, and foolishness more readily from blogs, which tend to be frank and even artless about their perspectives.  They moreover realize that blogs often debunk or at least reveal bias in articles in the mainstream press, the credibility of which has taken a beating over the past four years.  So, people judge a reasonable-sounding blog post more credible than a mainstream media article, which they judge in turn more credible than an unreasonable-sounding blog post.  They rate blogs in general low in credibility just because there are so many of those.

Never on this blog, of course….

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