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Online News: Information Feast or Famine? April 27, 2011

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News.
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Does the abundance of information on the Web make it possible to have a healthy media diet? Or are we just snacking on the news equivalent of junk food, and starved of the kind of information needed to be informed citizens?

How important is the element of mass in mass media, when the Web makes it possible for many more people to set the political agenda? In a world where Wikileaks can set the whole world talking, niche news sites collectively have clout, and may help fill a vacuum in public affairs reporting and agenda setting.

Research into changes in the nature of news supply and demand shows that people consider public affairs news anxiety-provoking, requiring a lot of cognitive effort, and pay attention to serious topics primarily during momentous times, after which they return to their normal news diet, rarely clicking on or tuning into stories journalists consider headlines.

As a result, news publishers in all media, in an increasingly competitive environment, feel pressure to cater to consumer demand. The growing tension in newsrooms between the logic of the profession and the market threatens to reduce public affairs coverage in many broad-based, traditional publications, leaving serious news to “niche sites.” This may lead to a “deepening of information inequality.”

Two panelists, Pablo Boczkowski and Joshua Benton debate the issue at a recent lecture at MIT, and differ on the basic questions.

Pablo Boczkowski and Joshua Benton at MIT Communications Forum from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

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