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Intellect

Political blogs more accurate than newspapers, say those who read both

Plus: Political reporters aware of blogs on the right but follow blogs on the left

  • Blog readers still get most of their news from regular news sources, but they suspect habitual bias.
  • Blogs have become an echo chamber that extends the shelf life of news stories.
  • Journalists spend more time reading posts in the liberal blogosphere.

According to research by a Brigham Young University political scientist, people who closely follow both political blogs and traditional news media tend to believe the content on blogs is more accurate.

Professor Richard Davis reports this and other blog-related insights in Typing Politics, a new book published by Oxford University Press.

“Blog readers still get most of their news from regular news sources, but they are concerned that they are not getting the whole side of the story there,” Davis said. “They suspect habitual bias in the traditional news content.”

Davis studied daily blog readers from a nationally representative sample and found that just 3 percent got most of their news from blogs. Most readers still got their information from traditional news organizations, despite some bloggers' predictions that they would entirely replace traditional media. Instead blogs have become an echo chamber that extends the shelf life of news stories, Davis said.

Professional journalists and political bloggers have different takes on accuracy in the world of political news, with the former pursuing objectivity and the latter openly peddling their personal opinions.

Yet political bloggers hold an edge with shared readers when it comes to the trust factor.

- 30 percent said blogs are more accurate

- 8 percent said traditional media are more accurate

- 40 percent said they’re about equal

- 21 percent were not sure

Davis also queried more than 200 journalists to learn how they use blog content in their coverage of political news. Most journalists were aware of influential blogs on both sides of the political spectrum, such as Daily Kos and Talking Points on the left and Michelle Malkin and Instapundit on the right. Despite equal awareness, journalists spend more time reading posts in the liberal blogosphere.

For example, more journalists know about Michelle Malkin than Talking Points. Yet twice as many journalists actually read Talking Points than read Michelle Malkin.

“When journalists take story ideas from blogs, those ideas naturally will come from blogs they read,” Davis said. “These reading patterns suggest journalists may be getting primarily one view of the blogosphere.”

In the near future, Davis expects continued coexistence of traditional media and blogs under the mutually beneficial arrangement where the former produces the news, and the latter provides commentary.

Professor Davis teaches political science at BYU. He’s the author of several books on American politics, including Electing Justice: Fixing the Supreme Court Nomination Process and Campaigning Online, also published by Oxford University Press.

Davis, Richard_6560.jpg
Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

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