Journalism shifting more to opinion-based content, ‘relies heavily on argumentation and advocacy’: report


Journalism in the U.S. “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 Corp. report.

“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 news coverage,” said Jennifer Kavanagh, the lead author of the report. Kavanagh also serves as a senior political scientist at Rand Corp. 

{mosads}“News consumers can now see how the news has changed over the years and keep that in mind when making choices about which media outlets to rely on for news,” she also notes. 

Researchers preparing the report pored over content from 15 print and television outlets over a 28-year period, from 1989 to 2017.

The New York Times, Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch represented the print side, while CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC were analyzed on the TV front. Digital journalism was also represented by Politico, The Blaze, Breitbart News, 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,” according to RAND’s conclusion. 

The Rand Corp. research follows a 2018 report by the Pew Research Center that underscored the challenges news consumers are having in trying to determine the difference between factual and opinion-based reporting.

Those participating in the Pew study were provided five statements, including “spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. Federal budget,” and five opinion statements, including “democracy is the greatest form of government.”

They were also two statements that were ambiguous.

Just 26 percent of the adults surveyed correctly identified all five factual statements as factual, according to the study, and just 35 percent identified all five opinion statements as opinion.

Pew also found that participants “were more likely to classify both factual and opinion statements as factual when they appealed most to their side.”

–This report was updated at 1:38 p.m.

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