US journalism has become more subjective: study

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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, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

In a unique analysis on news discourse and presentation, researchers found that the changes occurred over a 28-year-period (1989 to 2017) as journalism expanded beyond , such as newspapers and , to newer , such as 24-hour cable channels and digital outlets. Notably, these measurable changes vary in extent and nature for different news platforms.

"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 ," 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.

"News consumers can now see how the news has changed over the years and keep that in mind when making choices about which to rely on for news," she added.

The analysis, enabled by a RAND text analytics tool previously used to analyze support and opposition to Islamic terrorists on , offers a detailed assessment of how news has shifted over time and across platforms. The RAND-Lex tool scanned millions of lines of text in print, broadcast and online journalism from 1989 (the first year such data was available via Lexis Nexis) to 2017 to identify usage patterns in words and phrases. Researchers were then able to measure these differences not only within one outlet or type of media (e.g. print) but also comparatively with other forms of journalism (e.g. print vs. digital).

Researchers analyzed content from 15 outlets representing print (The New York Times, Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch), television (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC) and digital journalism (Politico, The Blaze, Breitbart News Network, Buzzfeed Politics, The Daily Caller and The Huffington Post).

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. (That year, 2000, is significant in the evolution of the media landscape, as viewership of all three major cable networks began to increase dramatically.)

Comparing broadcast news to cable programming, differences become more stark, with cable segments dedicating more time to opinion coverage and using argumentative language. The size and scope of these changes is substantial, but researchers also noted that these differences may be in part a result of their different audiences, with cable news focusing on specialized audiences.

When comparing newspapers to digital outlets, researchers were able to identify significant differences. Newspapers have changed the least over time, with content slightly shifting from a more academic style to one that is more narrative. As for digital journalism, the report found that online content is more personal and direct, narrating key social and policy issues through personal points of view and subjective references.

"Our analysis illustrates that news sources are not interchangeable but each provides mostly unique content, even when reporting on related issues,'' said Bill Marcellino, a behaviorial and social scientist and co-author of the report. "Given our findings that different types of media present news in different ways, it makes sense that people turn to multiple platforms."

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, and declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.

That report identified how changes in the media have contributed to Truth Decay by increasing the volume of opinion over fact. Forthcoming reports will examine issues such online civic engagement and use of social media for political activities, public trust in institutions and how to evaluate media literacy programs.

"RAND has always been an institution where facts matter,'' Rich said. "This new stream of research sheds additional light on the drivers and implications of Truth Decay and is part of our continuing efforts to use analysis to improve civil discourse and public policymaking."

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May 14, 2019
In short, we now have Fake News and Fake News "hacks/reporters". Right, Jim Acosta?

May 14, 2019
The article does little to point out how the media is politicized and how it is trying to create new social standards. When I want news I want it without the SJW crap trying to pit one group against the other. Don't make me out to be an ogre because I want to keep males out of female bathrooms and dressing rooms.

May 14, 2019
"Don't make me out to be an ogre because I want to keep males out of female bathrooms and dressing rooms." That's okay. Your repetitive politicizing of science, stubborn pushing of ludicrous pseudoscience and denial of basic facts is more than sufficient justification without the bathroom issue.

May 14, 2019
The article does little to point out how the media is politicized ...

I agree, but that's not what they studied. But it's easy to see, like industries capture regulators, the government establishment has captured the MSM. It's done thru a variety of means; mostly controlling access to politicians (to only friendly reporters who get the exclusive interviews or briefings), offers of overpaid government jobs in communications, speech writing, PR (there is a revolving door between journalism and government), licensing of media outlets, regulations, and of course, Obama started prosecuting journalists for doing their job (see James Rosen).

And then there's the huge imbalance between conservatives and liberals in the media, for which there are other causes.

May 14, 2019
"the government establishment has captured the MSM"

I think that you missed a subtlety here. The same group that captured the media has captured our government i.e. the .1%.

May 14, 2019
Actually what they're seeing is that there aren't more (or less) facts, but there's lots of opinion that no one had the bandwidth before to put out there. The problem is that the facts remain the same but the opinions are multiplying and most people can't distinguish between opinion and facts.

This is by design. And it's not the first time this effect has been used. The last time it had to be ended with nuclear weapons. Yay. /s

May 15, 2019
"US journalism has become more subjective"

Ya think?? HAHA!! Understatement of the decade.

May 15, 2019
Da saying that we are seeing a lot more opinion in the news is putting it nicely. We are seeing an AGENDA driven news. Just as our politics are becoming more divisive each day our news coverage is also more divisive. Facts are now being used as a tool to further and objective. Facts that do not further the cause are edited out of the report.

May 15, 2019
Unbelievable. If it's subjective, how can it be called "journalism" anyway? It's opinion - or worse - BS. The media in this country has become a fifth column mouthpiece for a statist establishment. Their words are not to be trusted - ever.

May 15, 2019
A great example of agenda driven news was the last school shooting. Did anyone notice how quickly the coverage faded? I wonder why. Could it have anything to do with the father being an illegal alien who was a criminal that was deported multiple times and the fact that his child was a female transitioning to male?

May 17, 2019
I think the subjectivity is because people want more "personal" news. If a news story just covers the facts without fear-mongering of any kind, it's just plain boring and people won't read it. Also, it's important to realize that most journalism students are "left-wing" which gives a bias to news stories. If I remember correctly 75 % of Finnish journalism students voted for green or left wing parties which actually have together around 20 % popularity among the whole country.

May 17, 2019
I think the subjectivity is because people want more "personal" news.

Maybe, but people has not lost their ability to recognize facts, at least in Sweden (with an admittedly different media landscape).

Obama started prosecuting journalists for doing their job (see James Rosen).

*One* anecdote is not a statistics. And maybe they suspected treason?

"Stephen Jin-Woo Kim is a former State Department contractor who pleaded guilty to a felony count of disclosing classified information to Fox News reporter James Rosen.[1][2] Prosecutors had charged that Kim's actions indirectly alerted North Korea to what U.S. intelligence officials "knew or did not know about its military capabilities and preparedness."[3]"

[ https://en.wikipe...-Woo_Kim ]

Their words are not to be trusted - ever.

? Opinion is part of the problem. The facts says some journalism is still factual.

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