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The media is a tool of the political elite, and other folk tales

Jason Norwood-Young
Jason Norwood-Young

There have always been those who avoid the news for one reason or another — they find it depressing and disempowering, they believe it’s run by powerful elite to manipulate the herds, or they think it’s profiteering bullshit. And of course they’re right, some of the time. Yet, as someone who’s worked in the media for many years, I can assure you that most good journalists and media outlets are tirelessly devoted to their watchdog role of holding power to account and helping their readers make informed decisions. But a portion of the public aren’t having any of it, as a new research paper from Ruth Palmer, Benjamin Toff, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen discovers. “The Media Covers Up a Lot of Things”: Watchdog Ideals Meet Folk Theories of Journalism speaks to the people who have eschewed the media, believing it to be biased, commercialised, captured, or often just depressing.

The paper itself is behind a paywall, so I encourage you to read Joshua Benton’s synopsis on Nieman Lab. The chilling bit comes at the end: “A news media that the public perceives as less trustworthy than politicians themselves, or in the same untrustworthy camp, is vulnerable to accusations by populist figures who lump the news media into a group with political and economic elites and claim for themselves the role of public defender. Indeed, our findings suggest that news avoiders could be particularly receptive to such appeals, especially if they are made through alternative media channels. Although they did not yet embrace populist movements, news avoiders we interviewed already more or less embraced that populist view of the news media.”

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Jason Norwood-Young
  • Journalist, developer, community builder, newsletter creator and international man of mystery.

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