With the advent of the fake news moniker, many tend to believe that independent news media that permeates Facebooks and other online sites would put their importance, reliability, penetrating power in doubt. The research says otherwise.
Yes! Magazine says it succinctly, "While trust in, corporate news has gone down over the past few years, trust in independent news is strong." Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, Executive Director of The Media Consortium, wrote,
Fighting fake news, however, is not the only or best way to ensure that our content ecosystem prioritizes real news. This week, a groundbreaking article in Science proves that a better way to secure a media system that works for democracy is to strengthen independent news outlets.
The five-year-long study published this week in Science, directed by Harvard professor Gary King and supported in part by Voqal, shows that even small independent news outlets can have a dramatic effect on the content of national conversation. King, along with his now former graduate students Ben Schneer and Ariel White, found that if just three outlets write about a particular major national policy topic—such as jobs, the environment, or immigration—discussion of that topic across social media rose by as much as 62.7 percent of a day’s volume, distributed over the week.
On a personal note, many stories that would have otherwise withered into obscurity have gained hundreds of thousands of views along with a robust discourse because it struck a chord with many of our loyal followers. Independent news media tap into the several networks and spheres that are often missed by corporate media.
And this is exactly what Jo Ellen Green Kaiser explains,
We expected independents would have a big impact on national conversations, for several reasons. First, independents have strong and loyal followers who are eager to talk about the content they read and view at their favorite outlets. When Bitch, Feministing, and Truthout together publish stories on reproductive health, they have a social reach of over 1 million followers.
But independent media followers are not just thumbs-up people. They not only comment and repost on social, but they donate to these organizations and attend events in real life. These are people who want to participate in national conversations about topics they care about, from immigration to climate change to school reform. So it makes sense that they would push those conversations on social.
Second, studies coming out over the past five years have demonstrated that collective efforts make a bigger impact than stand-alone efforts. When even small outlets join together, they can have an effect larger than any of them would individually. We’ve seen that recently with the publication of the Panama Papers and other large-scale collaborations.
She concludes with an important statement that all should heed.
Trust matters on platforms that too often provide space for fake news. Increasingly, people will look at what outlet is providing them with that news. While trust in corporate news has gone down over the past few years, trust in independent news is strong.
The implication of the Science study is simple: If we want to foster robust conversations about national policy, we need to continue to support independent news outlets.
Bottom line, find independent sources that you have built trust with and support them. Our democracy can only survive if its news and sources of information are democratic and supported by all.
Also published on Medium.