Do You Believe Everything You Read?

By now, just about everybody is aware that the news industry has been impacted dramatically by the ability of consumers to seek–and even generate–news themselves through a variety of online resources that may include their own blogs and social media accounts. When breaking news occurs, it is often shared first online where it grows and spreads exponentially. The problem is: it’s not always accurate!

Recent analysis by Pew Research reveals three important points about the “news” that many are consuming online:

  • Much of what is posted is centered around breaking news
  • Sentiments about this news shifts considerably over time
  • However passionate, these online conversations don’t track with public opinion

That last point is probably most telling, most interesting, and most alarming! Despite the widespread trending and sharing of information on sites like Twitter, it seems that these online sentiments do not reflect the collective viewpoints of the masses. As Pew says: “it is not a reliable proxy for public opinion.” Pew analyzed 10 different Twitter-fueled news items.

For instance:

“After the Newtown tragedy, 64% of the Twitter conversation supported stricter gun controls, while 21% opposed them. A Pew Research Center survey in the same period produced a far more mixed verdict, with 49% saying it is more important to control gun ownership and 42% saying it is more important to protect gun rights.” You can read a more detailed analysis of this and the other news events here.

The big takeaway here: be careful what you believe. No, you can’t believe everything you read. Importantly, as a 21st century consumer of news and information, it pays to exercise a certain amount of healthy skepticism.


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2 Responses to “Do You Believe Everything You Read?”

  1. lpophal says:

    Hi Melanie – thank you for your comments; sounds like an interesting class! It’s a challenging communication environment these days, but those challenges can mean good opportunities for skilled communicators. Best of luck in your studies and future career!

  2. Melanie Allen says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article and found that it really relates to what we are learning in my undergraduate class, Communication and Ethics. The text that we are reading is Digital Media Ethics, and I feel that a lot of what was explained in the couple first paragraphs is what we have been covering. The text talks about the emergence of digital media and our way of communicating with one another at every level. Not just emails, but facebook, twitter, instagram, etc are all widely known sites that people are using. This article brings not only the social aspect side to communication being presented, but also the accuracy and information that is relayed when breaking news happens. Often times when a story has happened or has been published, it will have gone through facebook and twitter, and the story is lost. The text states that it is our ethical responsibility to be more accurate and distributed properly. Especially with digital media we have to be aware of what we read, just like this article points out, “you can’t believe everything that you read.” On one hand digital media is a very good thing, but it can be depicted as a negative when you hear stories like the one that was presented about Newtown. As individuals we must be responsible, educated, and aware of the things we post, as well as the things we read.

    Melanie Allen
    Drury University
    Undergraduate Student

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