Giving The People What They Want: The Psychology Of Choosing News Sources

Giving The People What They Want: The Psychology Of Choosing News Sources

Written by Craig Rogers, Posted on , in Section Inspirational

Roughly 30 years ago, the way people consumed news in America changed dramatically with the advent of cable television. Quickly, 24 hour news stations began to form and people were confronted with a huge variety of options that had never existed before. These stations quickly began branching out from the traditional approach of simply offering up information about current events and began to focus more on commentary. This new style proved incredibly popular and has continued to grow in importance as part of the news landscape. However, with this new found ability to choose networks with a particular bias is it possible that people are actually less informed while watching more news? To answer this question, one must examine the reasons behind why an individual chooses particular sources.

How Do People Choose A News Network

What does a person look for when choosing a news network? Ultimately, it come down to two main factors. First and perhaps most important, confirmation of preexisting beliefs. Because the vast majority of content on these 24 news networks is commentary and not reporting, many individuals will seek out sources that don't challenge their already formed beliefs. This makes it important for a news network to be consistent in the lense through which it interprets current events. If it fails to do this, the network risks alienating its viewers. A clear example of this behavior in a modern network can be seen by examining Fox News. This network understands- that its viewers want to hear their pundits comment on current events from a solely conservative point of view. The second main factor is a networks ability to provide entertainment. Because these networks broadcast constantly, they must compete with all other programming. For a news network to do this successfully, it must sensationalize the events it reports on. They accomplish this by having anchors and reporters consistently promote near conspiracy theory level interpretations of the stories they report while demonizing those with differing political beliefs. Both of these approaches work together to ensure that an individual that watches one of these news networks is engaged, entertained, and made to feel that their personal political beliefs are consistently completely correct.

How Does Exposure To These Networks Change A Person's Psychology?

Now that we understand the factors that drive a person to choose a specific news network, we must ask how this affects an individual's psychology. The primarily way this is likely to impact a person is by making their beliefs much more deeply ingrained. For example, a person who leans conservative and subsequently watches Fox News will likely have their beliefs reinforced and pushed towards extremes. Furthermore, they will be even less likely to consider arguments that are contrary to their beliefs due to the constant demonization these beliefs through their network of choice. With this understanding, we must ask ourselves if the effect these networks are having on our society are acceptable? Unfortunately, though the answer may be no there is little that can be done to return subjectivity to news.