Nieman Foundation at Harvard
How YouTube’s recommendations pull you away from news
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July 1, 2021, 2:57 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   July 1, 2021

“Last year, we conducted sixty Zoom-based interviews with a diverse sample of adults in the United States to understand the relationship between the sources that people turn to for their news, the stories that they tell themselves about the news, and the steps they take to distinguish fact from fiction. (Findings from this research were published this week in New Media & Society.)” — Jacob L. Nelson and Seth Lewis, writing in CJR.

Here are some quotes from the paper.

“I usually have my iPad with me while I’m watching [the news]. I will google something. I’ll kind of do like a faux fact-check.” — John, middle-aged liberal

“I have a dad that’s a genius. He consumes news like a maniac … I’m glad that he can do it because it saves me a lot of time … I don’t want to spend my whole day digging for the truth.” — Linda, 35- to 54-year-old conservative

“Reading it, I feel like I have a pretty good sense. I get an intuition.” — Shannon, 35- to 54-year-old liberal woman, “when asked how they tell ‘when something is a fact'”

“I was a cop. You have three witnesses to an accident, you’re going to have three totally different stories.” — Miles, “who identified as a 55-plus male who is middle-of-the-road ideologically” and “drew on his professional experience as a police officer when discussing journalists’ biases,” also saying, “I mean, you’re a human. You’re not a robot”

“I can sift through what I’m being told. I just wish there was something more middle road than Fox and the other lying media.” — James, “who identified as a very conservative man who was 55 or older”

“I just have this insatiable need to find out the truth about things. I need to know how this world works, how the universe works.” — Timothy, “a 35- to 54-year-old who identified as middle-of-the-road ideologically, said he watches CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, but he also described spending a great deal of time with conspiracy theory videos on YouTube. He saw these videos as ‘fact-checking’ the more mainstream news, and they have led him to believe the earth is flat, Princess Diana was murdered, and the coronavirus pandemic is actually a covert attempt to turn the world into a surveillance state”

“My son listens to whatever he hears, and he goes with it. I’m trying to teach him to be more like me.” — Frank, 55-plus conservative

“About two-thirds of our local news is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, which is kind of a notoriously right-wing-leaning media conglomerate. The money comes from a more right-leaning source. They’re going to try and please those masters, as it were … in the media, bias comes down to where the money comes from.” — Robby, “a 35- to 54-year-old who identified as very liberal” and “also pointed to the Huffington Post as a liberal example of management dictating journalism”

“She is obviously a Democrat and can’t stand President Trump. I think personal feelings from the higher-ups have something to do with it. Well, I’m sure it does.” — “Stacey, who identifies as conservative, pointed to Arianna Huffington, the former owner of the Huffington Post, as being the reason that the news source’s journalists maintain a liberal slant”

“I hear NPR as anti-Trump. I am also anti-Trump, but I don’t want the news delivered to me necessarily in that snarky way … I want it to be just more neutral than that … I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know who delivers it that way. I guess that’s the problem.” — Jennifer, “a 35- to 54-year-old who self-identified as liberal”

“I was in the Air Force. I worked [in] special operations. I was trained as a sniper, so I have the observational skills. And I just kind of apply it to the news, filter out what doesn’t matter, and get to the heart of the issue.” — Mark, “who identified as a 55-or-older man in the middle of the road ideologically”

“I hadn’t heard anything about that … I was like, Hmm, I wonder if this is real? I googled it.” — Nick, 18- to 34-year-old conservative, “described using Google to fact-check a story he’d seen on Instagram alleging that Joe Biden had sexually assaulted someone”

“I think the vast majority of human beings are stupid sheep. It’s very easy to follow the person in front of us, it’s hard to blaze your own trail.” — Troy, “middle of the road”

“Typically, I’ll try to go and compare it to other news agencies. If something comes on Fox, I might compare it to what’s on CBS or NBC or CNN or something like that just to see if there’s anything variations in it. If you can verify it against the other ones, typically I think that there’s got to be some truth to it at least.” — Joel, “a 35- to 54-year-old who identified as very conservative”

“You shouldn’t take the article as gospel. You should still do some research and determine if what they’re saying is correct.” — “Margaret, an 18- to 34-year-old, middle-of-the-road woman”

“It would be wonderful to be able to believe everything that’s said … but it’s never going to happen.” — “Jill, who identified as a liberal, 55-and-over woman”

“I’ve always wanted to double-check everything, because I don’t want it to be that I’ve been led astray.” — Henry

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