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"My" Media Versus "The" Media: Trust in News Depends on Which News Media You Mean

June 18, 2018

For years, studies have shown Americans' trust in the news media is steadily declining. In recent months, the rise of so-called fake news and the rhetoric of President Donald Trump about journalists being "the enemy of the people" have made the question of trust in a free press an even more prominent issue facing the country. At the same time, data show that over the past decade, people have been consuming more news than ever. How are we to explain the apparent paradox? New research released today by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, suggests public attitudes about the news media are more complex and nuanced than many traditional studies indicate, with attitudes varying markedly depending on what media people are asked about.

Partisanship and the Media: How Personal Politics Affect Where People Go, What They Trust, and Whether They Pay

December 27, 2017

New research shows that although Americans are in many ways divided in their attitudes toward the media, Republicans and Democrats are in many ways strikingly alike in their behavior toward the news. They are equally likely to pay for news, to get news from social media, to seek it out actively rather than passively, and to get news multiple times a day, according to two recent studies by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Republicans and Democrats are also about equally likely to cite a local news source when asked about the news media they use most often and are equally likely to follow news about their towns and neighborhoods. In general, it is independents who stand out from partisans of either stripe, particularly for being less likely to follow news closely or engage in other ways with the news. But putting behavior aside, there are striking and potentially challenging differences among people of different party identifications when it comes to attitudes toward the news. There are also differences in the specific sources Democrats versus Republicans rely on for their information once you move beyond local news. In general, Republicans and independents are less satisfied than Democrats—even with the news sources for which they pay and that they use most often. Democrats, for instance, are more likely than Republicans or independents to say both the sources they use for free and the sources they pay for are reliable. Democrats are also more likely than Republicans or independents to say their paid source is a good value. These partisan differences also exist among just newspaper subscribers. Democrats who subscribe to newspapers are more likely than Republican subscribers to say their newspaper is reliable and to believe it is a good value.

Improving accountability reporting: How to make the best of journalism better for audiences

August 8, 2017

In this report, we want to explore a series of ideas people in news are working on that, taken together, will create a different approach to accountability journalism — work that encompasses fact-checking, explanatory and investigative reporting, but more generally applies to the journalistic work of holding the powerful accountable. Our proposals include recommendations about tools and technology, but also about format, tone and presentation.

Paying for News: Why People Subscribe and What it Says about the Future of Journalism

May 2, 2017

The Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, has undertaken what we believe is one of the largest efforts ever to understand who subscribes to news, what motivates them, and how creators of journalism can engage more deeply with consumers so more people will subscribe.This, the first report in that series, is based on in-depth formative interviews with news consumers in three cities and a nationally representative survey, informed by those interviews, of 2,199 American adults conducted between February 16 and March 20, 2017.

Charting New Ground: The Ethical Terrain of Nonprofit Journalism

April 20, 2016

A different kind of revenue, one that has nothing to do with advertising or subscriptions, is playing a larger role in journalism today. Nonprofit funding, once largely the province of public broadcasting, is becoming an important source of support for a new cohort of non-commercial news organizations -- many of them digital natives -- and a growing number of commercial news publishers, which are partnering with nonprofit media and in some cases accepting direct grants themselves. But the ethics of taking grants from foundations and gifts from donors to produce news is still evolving and not without controversy. In New York, a major public TV station returned a large journalism grant for a documentary series because of the donor's connection to the topic being covered. In New Orleans, a nonprofit media organization's reporting about a university president may have cost the organization's its office space at the school. In Texas, a nonprofit established new transparency rules after criticism that it was not revealing enough about donors and event backers. The role of nonprofit media outlets also seems likely to grow. In Philadelphia, the new owner of city's major newspapers is transferring ownership of the publications to a new nonprofit organization, a case being closely watched to see if it might become a model. This report, by the American Press Institute, explores the ethical terrain of nonprofit journalism by examining the kinds of grants made, the nature of communication between funders and grantees, the existence of journalistic firewalls, and the prevalence of written guidelines. The report is based on two main elements: surveys of funders, nonprofit news organizations and commercial partners about a range of funding and ethical issues; and five essays commissioned by people from various media and foundation stakeholder groups that explore different areas of ethical complexity. In a second phase, the study will be followed by recommendations for ethical guidelines.

Estimating Fact-checking's Effects: Evidence From a Long-term Experiment During Campaign 2014

April 28, 2015

This study reports the first experimental estimates of the longitudinal effects of exposure to fact-checking. We also conduct a comprehensive panel study of attitudes toward fact-checking and how they change during a campaign.Our results are generally encouraging. The public has very positive views of fact-checking and, when randomly exposed to it, comes to view the format even more favorably. Moreover, randomized exposure to fact-checks helps people become better informed, substantially increasing knowledge of the issues under discussion.We also document several important challenges facing fact-checkers, however. Most notably, interest in the format is skewed towards more educated and informed members of the public. Republicans also have less favorable views of the practice than Democrats. Continued growth of the medium will depend on broadening its appeal to these groups.

The Diffusion of Fact-checking: Understanding the Growth of a Journalistic Innovation

April 22, 2015

How and why is political fact-checking spreading across journalism? The research presented in this report suggests that the challenge of disseminating the practice is significant -- mere proximity does not appear to be sufficient to drive adoption. However, we find that factchecking can be effectively promoted by appealing to the professional values of journalists.Our first study considers whether journalists might emulate their colleagues in emphasizing fact-checking, following the practices of professional peers in the way that other journalistic innovations have disseminated. However, the practice does not appear to diffuse organically within a state press corps. While fact-checking coverage increased dramatically during the 2012 campaign, these effects were concentrated among outlets with dedicated fact-checkers. We find no evidence that fact-checking coverage increased more from 2008 to 2012 among outlets in states with a PolitiFact affiliate than among those in states with no affiliate.However, it is possible to effectively promote fact-checking. In a field experiment during the 2014 campaign, we find that messages promoting the genre as a high-status practice that is consistent with journalistic values significantly increased newspapers' fact-checking coverage versus a control group, while messages emphasizing audience demand for the format did not (yielding a smaller, statistically insignificant increase). These results suggest that efforts to create or extend dedicated fact-checking operations and to train reporters are the most effective way to disseminate the practice of fact-checking. While audience demand is an important part of the business case for the practice, newsrooms appear to respond most to messages emphasizing how fact-checking is consistent with the best practices and highest aspirations of their field.

A Comparison of Correction Formats: The Effectiveness and Effects of Rating Scale versus Contextual Corrections on Misinformation

February 1, 2015

What style of journalistic factchecking is most convincing to readers? This study uses an online survey experiment to compare two prevailing approaches to correcting both consumer and political misinformation: factchecks that rely only on written analysis to assess claims, and those that also deploy a graphical meter or "truth scale." Testing a series of simulated factchecks from a fictitious factchecking organization, GetTheFacts.org, we find first of all that both approaches were effective on the whole, with respondents who saw either format significantly more likely than a control group to correctly evaluate a claim that had been previously debunked. Does using a truth meter make a difference? In the case of a misleading advertising claim unrelated to politics, adding a meter to the written analysis appeared to make the correction more convincing. However, both formats proved equally effective in challenging political misinformation. Both formats also yielded their largest improvements among readers who selfidentified from the same party as the politician being checked. Although respondents scored best in identifying misinformation from a politician of the opposing party, seeing a correction made no significant difference in that case. Among other results, we also find that when given the choice, just over half of respondents preferred to see corrections that included a truth scale.