Your Choice in Media Determines How Uninformed You Are

Media junkies like me find these sorts of surveys fascinating: What your media consumption preferences are turns out in large part having an impact on your knowledge of world affairs, current events, etc. Nothing really important — just those items crucial to the survival of a functioning democracy.

What is particularly noteworthy — just as Rupert Murdoch is set to acquire Dow Jones — is how informed the viewers are who get most of their news from his FoxNews Channel: They ranked dead last in the survey . . .   

This data comes form the well regarded and non-partisan Pew Research Center. The statistical question is how self-selecting these groups are; For example, TDS is parody whose humor tends to assume you already have access to relevant information. 

Wired gives us the dope:

More than a decade after the Internet went mainstream, the world’s richest information source hasn’t necessarily made its users any more informed. A new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that Americans, on average, are less able to correctly answer questions about current events than they were in 1989. Citizens who call the Internet their primary news source know slightly less than fans of TV and radio news. Hmmm… maybe a little less Perez Hilton and a little more Jim Lehrer.

Infoporn_july

Source:
Infoporn: Despite the Web, Americans Remain Woefully Ill-Informed
Patrick di Justo
Wired,  06.26.07 | 2:00 AM
http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/15-07/st_infoporn

Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions
What Americans Know: 1989-2007
Released: April 15, 2007
http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=319

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Discussions found on the web:
  1. Eclectic commented on Jul 1

    What if you watch TDS but not Colbert . . . ?

  2. Liam commented on Jul 1

    Its no that we are uniformed. Its that we just don’t care. Especially who is the current con man in power.

  3. RN commented on Jul 1

    We certainly see one thing. Fox News does no good in this world.

  4. sc commented on Jul 1

    Network news scores great as well …… should we be surprized by any of this ?

  5. MAS commented on Jul 1

    I’m surprised WIRED didn’t ask a science or technology news question for their survey.

  6. MarkTX commented on Jul 1

    A few short quiffs I would like to add after reading this article,

    -The evening Network news is ONLY on approx. 30 minutes a day where I live-so what do you expect after all the commercials?

    -CNN beat FOX for the “all day news”.

    -people who watch/read (at least) some of the top 4 categories are probably more informed and should be more broadly informed

    -if you do not inform your viewers/readers
    do you “mis”inform your viewers?

    -is FOX “news” (24 Hours A Day)?

  7. babygal commented on Jul 1

    I am news junkie also, I am on Internet almost 24 hrs a day for work and pleasure tho I do confess to the occasional Greta Van Sustern. I find all my friends regardless of political affiliation (tho most are super liberal) to be completely devoid of any knowledge of current events other than Paris Hilton and the latest Michael Moore film. These are well-educated baby boomers. I think some of them just still smoke too much hooch to pay attention.

  8. Eclectic commented on Jul 1

    I suspect the study is predisposed (unintentionally of course) to ignore the statistical sample of viewers of the various media studied.

    If you say that Fox viewers are less informed by watching Fox than by watching, say, The Daily Show, then I’ll respond by saying you’ve failed to observe your own bias regarding the possible quality of the content of that news relative to the desire to know and understand it by the viewers that watch it.

    Viewers of The Daily Show are already quite well informed and look to the show to present what they already generally know in humorous context, with irony. I suspect that the viewership of The Daily Show generally represents a higher socioeconomic class than Fox’s viewership, and that tends to produce a better informed class to begin with.

    Viewers of Fox aren’t looking for juxtapositional irony. They’re looking to see how the headlines that Fox presents already matches their view of the world. While the content below the Fox headline may be as informative as anywhere else, in any other media, it’s what the viewer wants to know… more than it’s what he may be able to know by viewing Fox.

    Let’s face it… Fox is currently better at formatting the news with a personable approach, with a sort of eye-candy appeal. I’d say that when a viewer wants style rather than content, they’re already in a class of viewers that are destined to remain less informed. My own experience may be an exception to that, because I watch Fox almost exclusively for the television component of news. I do this partly for the philosophical and psychological experiment it provides me. How?… It’s because I’ve spent most of my life watching news editorialized by those who may not understand their own biases in one political direction, so it’s now refreshing to watch those who don’t understand their biases in the opposite political direction.

    I’ve said on this blog before that the pendulum of political control had better swing in the middle between conservatism and liberalism, or our society is dead. That pendulum will enslave the population if allowed to swing too far in either direction.

    All I care about is what the news is. I’m perfectly capable of discerning the direction of the commentary just as well with Fox as with any other media source. You can often learn as much from a biased commentator about the opposite perspective as you can from one who is biased in favor of the opposite perspective, or not biased at all. It’s like all the times that the president speaks to the nation, and we get all the mofos who line up to tell us what he said, all from their perspectives of course. I know WTF he said…. I don’t need you mofos to tell me what he said.

    In other words, if one wants to ridicule Fox, then don’t waste time by ridiculing their content, because you may be wrong in doing so… but rather just ridicule their viewership directly as a class. When you have a nation that is divided almost 50/50 on every single element of constitutional law, human rights, business conduct and foreign policy, and when you have a media/entertainment industry that can provide 500 channels and multiple sources of continuous news, you will naturally have popular iconoclastic media that filter out their own class of viewership. If one of the filters is for style rather than substance, then its viewership will be filtered as a less informed class.

    I’ll end by telling you this. There’s not a higher quality reporter anywhere, on any channel, at any newspaper, or on any blog… than Chris Wallace. I expect that the people who pay attention to Chris Wallace on Fox are pretty well informed, as a class.

    Class dismissed.

  9. Eclectic commented on Jul 1

    Barringo…. I just noticed that, you motor trucker!!

    Lemme axe you sumpin?… What percentage of your audience/following use c-a-l-i-e-n-t-e(mail) dot com?

    If it’s 5% or less, maybe you didn’t screw up too badly.

    If it’s 10-15%… then better get a cookie and nap and count to ten first, next time.

    If it’s way higher than 15%, then you’d better put the chicken suit on and cluck for a while before ever doing that again.

    rks

  10. Tom C., Stamford,Ct. commented on Jul 1

    Funny how ‘scientific’ surveys fail to reflect personal anectdotal experience going back 30 years and formed within various big city environments. So-called liberals may be ‘well informed’, whatever that means, but their windows of information seem to be severely limited to their own lifetimes with the focus on celebrity culture and it’s ‘issue of the day’ mentality. It’s a kind of echo-chamber world emphasizing ‘now’ with minimal reference points beyond big media type sound bytes. Manahattanites are notorious, in my experience, for forming opinions built around the latest op-ed from the black and white world of modern New York Times ‘liberalism’. As far as big city leftwingers are concerned, you know their opinions on just about any issue before they open their mouths. Highly emotional, little nuance and lacking historical perspective. One man’s opinion, nothing personal.

  11. johntron commented on Jul 1

    Since TBP is first and foremost a financial blog….

    1. Whatever synergies a marriage of Fox News and DJ possess is ephemeral….it is highly unlikely that Fox News and DJ can cross-sell advertising/cross-promote each other’s brand as the demographics of WSJ and Fox News “core users” are very different.

    2. I’d like to see the prototypical WSJ reader chatting with the prototypical Fox News viewer over cocktails at the Hamptons.

    3. The Bancrofts should take the money and run. Though I suspect that many Bancrofts would rather be the big fish in a money-losing pond than a small fish in the high net worth ocean.

    4. As for TDS/Colbert Show, some of the best TV on air, regardless of your political ideology….as long as you have an open mind. Check it out.

  12. Winston Munn commented on Jul 1

    Quoting Eclectic: “There’s not a higher quality reporter anywhere…than Chris Wallace.”

    If this is true, then we had best file “freedom of the press” under “democracy’s experiments that didn’t work out.”

    This is not a comment about Chris Wallace, per se, but about placing any “t.v. talking head” in the category of “best reporter”. If today’s media-scripted t.v. “reporters” had been our only access to truth in the past, we would never had learned of the Cambodian expansion of the Vietnam War, Watergate, or the Iran/Contra affair. Unfortunately, before you can read the headline, there must be a true investigative journalist who digs out the story that becomes the headline.

    However, without real reporters we would still get excellent coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton.

  13. blam commented on Jul 1

    Fox News is no worse than the other network news programs as a source of current event news. Since FOX is abysmal, …….

    Welcome to the world of the corporate news oligopoly. Puppies, flag burners, paris hilton, american idol, holocaust item, global warming, flood video, 12 minutes of commercials. Thanks for watching.

  14. Eclectic commented on Jul 1

    Winston,

    Maybe if you attempted to separate the news from the commentary about the news, you might not find Fox News so offensive or deficient.

    Otherwise, it’s just a matter of the comparison of style to substance.

    Which network would be most likely to have some Saturday morning female commentators doin’ a catfight in mud?

    If you could wish for any network Sat-morn-fems to do a catfight in mud, which network would you hope did it?

    If the news were accurately reported, would you be able to ignore the mud catfights that might accompany it?

  15. Q commented on Jul 1

    1. The Pew research fund is far from ‘nonpartizan’. It’s linked to the Pew charitable foundation, which is far-left-of-center. It also advertises (ok, ‘sponsors shows’) on NPR – I should know, I hear their spill daily – and NPR is undisputedly left-of-center.

    2.
    “2. I’d like to see the prototypical WSJ reader chatting with the prototypical Fox News viewer over cocktails at the Hamptons.”
    I read WSJ. I also read foxnews.com (and cnn.com for balance). Where is the conflict?

  16. Winston Munn commented on Jul 1

    Eclectic:

    I solved the problem in a different manner by utilizing the best contol knob on television, namely the “off” switch.

    My own personal version of “Network”.

  17. scorpio commented on Jul 1

    i’ve been reading the WSJ every morning since joining the work force some 23 years ago. i will miss it tremendously.

  18. wunsacon commented on Jul 1

    I wonder whether the arrival of Fox “News”, in offering an alternative to people that did not exist before, has contributed in any substantial way to people knowing less 20 years on.

    >> 1. The Pew research fund is far from
    >> ‘nonpartizan’.

    The real question is: Is the poll accurate? Fox viewers were more likely to believe we’d find WMD in Iraq and scoffed at “way left-of-center” folks as “biased”. Who was correct? Being “biased” to the left does not necessarily invalidate the results.

    To be fair, if the poll were conducted by Fox, I wouldn’t trust it. I.e., I acknowledge your suspicion and would be suspicious myself if the roles were reversed.

  19. wunsacon commented on Jul 1

    Scorpio, I let my subscriptions (to WSJ and Barrons) lapse and will not renew. It was a great source of info and I will miss them.

  20. spongetoddsquarepants commented on Jul 1

    I am quite certain that Rupert Murdoch is leading the charge of the “fock them as longh as I get mine” force destroying America..

  21. ac commented on Jul 1

    lol, I just got a birthday card that had Bush’s face on the cover and inside it said : What’s a birthday party without a clown. Terrific lol.

  22. scorpio commented on Jul 1

    W: i wont drop my subscription until the minute this take-over is final, i have too much respect for the news guys and the fact they’re the only hard-hitting guys covering this country today. wont matter what feeble editorial restraints the Bancrofts think they’ll get to fig-leaf the sellout. the news side will over time catch up with an editorial page that has been unreadable since Day One. since i already take the FT they wont notice the bump up in subscription, but WSJ will notice over time.

  23. Austin Cooper commented on Jul 1

    You know, media in America really isn’t about information. It’s about entertainment, and as a culturally-understood method of enticing consumers to make purchases.

    It’s a business, and it’s about market share and being the leader in the market to gain more advertising revenue. In that sense, ABC News is no different than Lost, and ‘The Factor’ no different than The Simpsons.

    It’s still possible to be more informed, but it takes more time — and that’s a commodity more people don’t have a lot of. If you’re working full-time, your SO works part-time, and you’re raising kids, you can’t regularly review a dozen blog sites, and read Foreign Affairs Journal, The Economist, Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly, and watch The News Hour, CNN, and (if you must) Fox.

    And, the less informed an adult voter is — well… the folks who toil in politics (it used to be called “public service”, ha ha) don’t really care about that, do they?

  24. John F. commented on Jul 1

    The answer to the statistical question is obvious: the Fox news audience is large, skews less educated, and tends to treat TV like wallpaper (not unlike CNN viewers); the Daily Show skews 25-year college-educated white male, active viewer. Neither set of numbers is anything to be proud of (although I detect some triumphalism in Daily-land).

    Our society values education less than virtually any majority-literate country, and to the extent that it pays it lip service, it usually misses the point. Many people graduate from high school and even top universities with little knowledge of history, culture, or (God forbid) a foreign language or two. They are singularly unequipped to place current events in any meaningful context, they view facts as fleas on the back of their almighty opinion, and they moralize with no concept of a moral framework.

    I’m not prepared to predict the precise date of the fall of the American empire, but I am prepared to speculate that a random sample of foreign-born cab drivers would outperform any of these media groupings, as well as the college-educated cohort. I will write to Pew suggesting they test this hypothesis next time, and will prepare a tastefully-designed T-shirt with a ‘we’re not as ignorant as the other guys’ logo for Jon Stewart’s audience. Now I think I’ll take a Tylenol…

  25. John F. commented on Jul 1

    The answer to the statistical question is obvious: the Fox news audience is large, skews less educated, and tends to treat TV like wallpaper (not unlike CNN viewers); the Daily Show skews 25-year college-educated white male, active viewer. Neither set of numbers is anything to be proud of (although I detect some triumphalism in Daily-land).

    Our society values education less than virtually any majority-literate country, and to the extent that it pays it lip service, it usually misses the point. Many people graduate from high school and even top universities with little knowledge of history, culture, or (God forbid) a foreign language or two. They are singularly unequipped to place current events in any meaningful context, they view facts as fleas on the back of their almighty opinion, and they moralize with no concept of a moral framework.

    I’m not prepared to predict the precise date of the fall of the American empire, but I am prepared to speculate that a random sample of foreign-born cab drivers would outperform any of these media groupings, as well as the college-educated cohort. I will write to Pew suggesting they test this hypothesis next time, and will prepare a tastefully-designed T-shirt with a ‘we’re not as ignorant as the other guys’ logo for Jon Stewart’s audience. Now I think I’ll take a Tylenol…

  26. Andy commented on Jul 1

    I think — if anyone were to ask them — Stewart and Colbert would be both proud and completely appalled by the survey results.

  27. Eclectic commented on Jul 2

    Ah!… If only to have the opportunity to have Kramer work some of you at a cocktail party!

    Bosco!

  28. Eclectic commented on Jul 2

    If the study’d put up results for readers of “The National Geographic (NG),” then NG would’ve been to Daily/Colbert, relatively, as Daily/Colbert is now to Fox.

    I would say that with Daily/Colbert at (52), (50) and (44), that their emphasis is still mostly on fun, and they shouldn’t quit their day jobs, and their viewership is not as well informed as it thinks of itself.

    Listen, the typical graduating H.S. class member in the U.S. can’t find Kansas on an unlabeled map, with the possible exception of the ones who live in Kansas.

    I’ve routinely tested job applicants who have MBAs that can’t solve simple algebra problems that any 7th grader in India would have not the slightest difficulty with.

    As Greenspan spoke to the subject in remarks a couple of years ago, our (paraphrz) “elementary schools do a wonderful job,” but still “something happens between about the 4th – 6th grades and higher, and the quality of the education diminishes after that for some unknown reason.”

    I’ll tell you what the reason is. It’s because children in the U.S. aren’t taught to utilize analytical skills in problem solving in public schools during or after the elementary years. These are skills routinely taught by parents to their children in many developing Third World nations. India, Pakistan and Korea are prime examples of this. That’s part of the reason for all the intellectual cap-ex that’s flowing to India from corporate Americana.

    Consequently, U.S. public school students (private schools not necessarily excepted) have no sense of adventure, challenge or academic curiosity in post-elementary schooling. It’s a world full of multiple-choice questions and teachers trying to grade 20-30 (or more) students on a grade system ranging through probably a dozen or more gradients.

    Then they’re dumped out into a rapidly changing world that they can’t cope with, or compete in.

  29. Jim Bergsten commented on Jul 2

    I’d respectfully suggest that, before anyone goes off with a happy sense of righteous indignation about all them wacky stupid Americans, they actually LOOK at the original survey found here (as opposed to a misleading graphic or a news report of a news report of a news report):

    http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=319

    If you do, you’ll find out, for example that the percentages between The Daily Show and the O’Reilly Factor (and Jim Lehrer, and NPR, and, godhelpus Limburger) are pretty close (and probably statistically identical).

    It’s disingenuous and misleading to compare TDS against an entire network — to be “fair and balanced” they should have compared Fox News against the Comedy Channel. Try it the other way — why not compare Fox News with Reno 911?

    Finally, instead of mocking them, you should all get down on your knees and thank whatever deity (or lack thereof) you believe in (or don’t) that there ARE so many “dumb” Americans. They are the ones supplying the fuel and inefficiencies that drive the market and make you all that money.

    But, more on this some other time.

  30. David Merkel commented on Jul 2

    The Internet enables broad dispersion of all information, but people don’t generally want that. Instead, people can get more of the information that they like. It’s narrowcasting, not broadcasting. Unlike a major newspaper, or an evening news show, where you get a little of everything, on the internet, you can get only what you want.

    Since most people don’t care about politics until it bites them, this lack of concern fosters lack of knowledge.

    PS — I feel the same way about watching sports; it exists to deaden the interest of men in civic affairs.

  31. JAC commented on Jul 2

    I worry this survey is something of the tail wagging the dog; those who view / read certain news outlets are quite possibly self-selecting during the viewing / reading process, and thus, you get what you already would have gotten, so to speak.

    Likewise, I think they are probably failing to capture the real influence of the internet, which is non-major-media sources and/or the people who hit multiple websites (for instance, I dig through tons of blogs, and frequently hit the BBC, WSJ, and CNN – although tepidly, in the last case – websites for news… I also do not own a television…).

    Either way, we know less than what we knew before, and we didn’t know anything then.

  32. Chauncy Chipman commented on Jul 2

    Why don’t you bash CNN? Their views ranked under TDS and only beat Fox barely. Way to spin, you pinko.

    ~~~

    BR You got me — I’m a pinko! I’m part of the fast growing movement CFMA — the Communist Fund Managers of Americas!

  33. Peter Clark commented on Jul 2

    It’s too bad that Wired employs one of the cheapest graphical tricks to emphasize differences in the data – the diameter of the circles is proportional to the measure they are plotting, but the reader’s perception is based on the area of the circles, which is proportional to the square of the measure. So, for example, as the measure goes from 30 to 60 percent, it appears the difference is four-fold. Lame.

  34. D. Johnson commented on Jul 6

    There was one comment about the fact that there are so many commercials now that you only see half an hour of news on a nightly news broadcast – I would like to emphasize that for me and i am sure many others, it is now impossible to watch American television because of the number and content of commercials (ie, the two minute drug commercial where if you have a side effect your arm falls off) – even PBS now has commericals.
    Part of Fox’s success is that many times they do not show commericals between shows and instead broadcast a news summary and lead directly into the next show.
    As for network news and CNN – they could do themselves a favor by having a look at how the BBC works and just get back to newsreading rather than personality programming.

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