RAND Report: “Journalism Has Gradually Shifted Away From Objective News And Offers More Opinion-Based Content”

U.S. Journalism Has Become More Subjective, RAND Corporation, May 2019

Bits:

U.S.-based journalism has gradually shifted away from objective news and offers more opinion-based content that appeals to emotion and relies heavily on argumentation and advocacy.

Researchers found that the changes occurred over a 28-year-period (1989 to 2017) as journalism expanded beyond traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcast networks, to newer media, such as 24-hour cable channels and digital outlets.

“Our research provides quantitative evidence for what we all can see in the media landscape: Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage,” said Jennifer Kavanagh, a senior political scientist and lead author of the report, which is second in a series of research into the phenomenon of “Truth Decay,” the declining role of facts and analysis in civil discourse and its effect on American life.

The findings point to a gradual and subtle shift over time and between old and new media toward a more subjective form of journalism that is grounded in personal perspective.

Consider broadcast news. Before 2000, broadcast news segments were more likely to include relatively complex academic and precise language, as well as complex reasoning. After 2000, broadcast news becomes less pre-planned as on-air personalities and guests engaged in conversations about news.

The report is one in a series of RAND-funded reports into the triggers and consequences of Truth Decay. The first report, written by Kavanagh and RAND President and CEO Michael D. Rich, examined how Truth Decay is a set of four interrelated trends:

  • Increasing disagreement about facts
  • A blurring between opinion and fact
  • An increase in the relative volume of opinion and personal experience over fact
  • Declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.

Is that what we want? A conversation about news? I guess that’s what people want. It has actually become a conversation about other people’s conversations about news. I really miss fact-based news.

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