Here are the ICA 2020 talks featuring researchers from the Reuters Institute

Our Research Fellows speak about topics such as news inequalities, social media, misinformation and reporting about populism
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As the 70th annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) unfolds online, we share the titles and abstracts of the talks prepared by the members of our research team. Attendees can find the talks in this link.

1. Nudging Away False News: Evidence From a Survey Experiment.

Simge Andı

Abstract. Many are concerned with the proliferation of false news on social media. This paper explores whether ‘nudges’ can help address this issue by changing the behavior of social media users. To do so, we conduct an online survey experiment (n = 1,003), where participants are randomly exposed to a social norm-based message before reading a false news article. The message warns participants that there is an abundance of fake news online and tells them that most responsible people think twice before sharing articles with their network. Our analysis finds that the nudge reduced the number of people willing to share the article by 5.1 percentage points, with a 46.7% increase in the proportion of respondents stating that they do not want to share the article because it is false or inaccurate.

Political Communication > Correcting Political Misperceptions Across Media and Country Contexts

2. Balancing Product Reviews, Traffic Targets, and Industry Criticism: UK Technology Journalism in Practice.

J. Scott Brennen, Philip N. Howard, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Abstract. Recognizing that technology journalism remains under-studied in journalism studies, this article asks how UK technology journalists navigate relationships with the tech industry and how these relationships influence reporting practices. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with UK-based tech journalists, this article outlines three cotemporaneous articulations of technology journalism defined by the focus on the products of technology business, on the business of technology, and on the social implications or effects of technology. In providing a detailed account of the day-to-day news practices of the technology beat, the article also demonstrates how journalists manage a range of pressures, limitations, and challenges. Finally, it shows that, in how it is defined and practiced, tech journalism remains interlaced with the tech industry in ways that may undercut growing calls for critical, rigorous, and independent technology reporting. Ultimately, this article makes the case for treating technology journalism as a distinct field of inquiry.

Journalism Studies > Technology Journalism, Media Work, and Tensions in Journalistic Labor

3. Promising the Earth: The Coverage of Cultured Meat in the United States and UK Elite Media, 2013-18.

J. Scott Brennen, James Painter, Silje Kristiansen.

Abstract. ‘Cultured’ meat has attracted a considerable amount of investor and media interest as an early-stage technology. Despite uncertainties about its future impact, news media may be playing a key role in contributing to promissory discourses, by stressing the potential benefits from cultured meat to the environment, health, animal welfare and feeding a growing population. The results from content analysis of 255 articles from 12 US and UK legacy media show that much of the coverage is prompted by the industry sector, whose representatives are also the most quoted. Positive narratives about cultured meat are much more prominent than cautionary ones.

Environmental Communication > Environmental Controversies: From Cultured Meat to the Dakota Access Pipeline

4. How Search Engines, Social Media, and Aggregators Shape News Use: Evidence From Tracking Data.

Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Abstract. We still have much to learn about how the rise of new, ‘distributed’, forms of news access via search engines, social media, and aggregators are shaping people’s news use. In this study, we analyse tracking data from a panel of 3,000 UK news users to make a comparison between direct access (primarily determined by self-selection) and distributed access (determined by a combination of self-selection and algorithmic selection). We find that (i) the more people use search engines, social media, and aggregators for news, the more diverse news repertoires they have. However, the more people use direct access, the less diverse their news repertoires become. But following on from this, (ii) people who more often use social media, search engines and aggregators for news also have more partisan news repertoires. The findings add to the growing body of evidence challenging the existence of echo chambers and filter bubbles, but they also highlight other potentially negative effects of distributed access. We also discuss how these dynamics are influenced by the particularities of the UK’s media system.

Political Communication > Personalised News Use

5. Incidental Exposure to News on Social Media and News Repertoires in Europe, America, and Asia-Pacific.

Richard Fletcher, Anne Schulz, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Abstract. Previous research has shown that people can be incidentally exposed to news on social media. However, this research is based on data from a small pool of countries. In this paper, we use online survey data from 36 markets to investigate incidental exposure to news on three separate social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In line with previous studies, we find that those who use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube (but do not intentionally use them for news) still consume news from significantly more news sources than those who do not use these networks at all. We argue that these findings highlight the importance of distinguishing between incidental exposure on different social networks, of paying attention to cross-country variation, and that studying the influence of incidental exposure on news repertoires will help with the interpretation of findings linking incidental exposure to media effects.

Political Communication > Incidental or Intentional? News Exposure Today

6. Four Types of Social Media Use: A Cross-Country Analysis of the Importance of Social Media News Use.

Sascha Hölig, Richard Fletcher

Abstract. Social media became a relevant news source for Internet users all over the world and their determinants and effects are often discussed. In fact, the overall findings about reasons and effects of social media as a news source are often ambiguous. Against this background, we raise the question if it is appropriate to consider social media news use as a variable in this broad sense or if it is necessary to differentiate between different importance levels of social media within people’s news repertoires in order to allow meaningful statements? This article argues our findings give cause to differentiate between people who use social media as an additional news source amongst others and people who use them as their main or even as their only one source. A skewed distribution and very distinctive characteristics of people with different ascribed importance levels for social media as news source are too pronounced to be put in one basket. Valid assertions about determinants, reasons and effects of using social media platforms for news will make more sense by taken their position within people’s news repertoires into account.

Journalism Studies > Repertoires of News Use: Approaches for Understanding Selective Exposure, News Avoidance, and Social Media Dynamics

7. Inequalities in the Offline and Online News Media Environments Across Six Countries: The Role of Social Class and Interest in News.

Antonis Kalogeropoulos, Richard Fletcher, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen.

Abstract. In this article, we present an analysis of inequalities in online and offline news media ecosystems across a strategic sample of six countries (US, UK, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Spain). Using survey data from the 2018 Reuters Institute Digital News Report (Newman et al., 2018), we are able to compare inequalities in traditional offline (TV, radio, print) and online news media environments. Our results show that: (1) across all six countries, the online news environment is more unequal than the offline one in terms of the number of news sources that people use, (2) on average people use more news sources offline everywhere but the US, (3) interest in news is a stronger predictor of online news use than offline news use across all countries, and (4) education is a stronger predictor of online news use everywhere except Italy and Spain. These findings suggest that the shift towards online news use could widen the gaps between the information rich and the information poor. They also suggest that the rise of online news consumption is reinforcing longstanding social inequalities in traditional news consumption.

Journalism Studies > From Production to Distribution to Consumption: Examples of Inequalities, Discontinuities, and Temporal Rhythms of News

8. Reporting About Populism?: Taking Populist Audiences into Account.

Anne Schulz

Abstract. The question of how the news media should respond to the populist surge is very complex. This is in part because established news institutions can hardly be considered neutral players as they frequently find themselves at the centre of populist attacks. Unsurprisingly, either in an act of self-defence or in defence of democracy more generally, mainstream media’s response to populism is very critical (Wettstein, Esser et al. 2018). As much as one might consider it journalism’s job to deconstruct ideologies that are potentially harmful for democracies, it is important to consider the audience perspective as well. This presentation will summarize survey findings that illustrate that citizen supporters of populism are following mainstream news despite holding strong hostile attitudes toward them. This segment of the audience might hence take any negative evaluation of populist politics as evidence for the populist claim that mainstream news are lying and working against the people’s interest.

Journalism Studies > How Journalists React to Populism

9. News Literacy and the Use of Social Media for News in 5 Countries.

Anne Schulz, Richard Fletcher, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Abstract. Concern over the spread of misinformation on social media has amplified calls to improve the public’s media literacy. Yet, at the same time, we actually know little about how people with different levels of literacy use news on social media. This study investigates the relationship between news literacy and social media use in five countries: Switzerland (German and French speaking parts), UK, US, Sweden, and Germany. We use a large cross-sectional survey data set (N≈2000 per country) to investigate the hypotheses and research questions. Across all countries investigated, those who know more about how the news is made understand that social media can be a useful way of staying informed, but also that it is sensible to combine it with other sources of information. Furthermore, when deciding whether news on social media is going to be worth their time, those who are more literate attach importance to information that is more likely to indicate quality (e.g., information about the source) rather than popularity (e.g., the number of shares and comments).

Journalism Studies > Fact-Checking, Trust, and News Literacy (Works in Progress)