Sunday, December 19, 2010

Misinformation and Fox News: The customer is always right (wing)!

According to the study, which can be reviewed online, in most cases, the more a person watched and read the news, the less likely they were to have been misled about the facts. But “there were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue,” the study’s authors wrote. In particular, they found that regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.

Lots of blogospheric chatter about this study over the weekend. Some of my liberal-slash-journalistic friends asked: What can we do to counter Fox News' misinformation machine?

My answer: Probably nothing. The people who go to Fox News don't go to Fox News because they want to be informed, by and large. They go there to hear what they want to hear. The fact that Fox News' viewers believe a lot of factually incorrect things may not be entirely because Fox News misinforms them, but because they believe those incorrect things and Fox News reinforces that. You can deliver a better truth-delivery machine than Fox News has, certainly, but you can't make Fox News' audience want to hear stuff they don't want to hear.

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