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Does diverse news lead to a diverse audience? The influence of news content diversity on people's opinions, issue perceptions, and news item evaluation.

A core democratic function of news media is informing the public on day-to-day affairs. To help establish a well-informed citizenry, ideally, journalists should represent the diversity of voices that are present in society. News content diversity has already received much attention in academic research and journalism practice, but we know little about the audiences on the receiving end. For content diversity to play its democratic role, citizens must be reached and affected by it.We do not know whether people actually notice diverse news content and how they evaluate it. Moreover, there are some indications that presenting audiences with diverse actors and opinions in the news might not always result in more diverse opinions among those audiences, as people tend to focus on the opinions close to their own and neglect other information. This leads to the main question of this project, addressing a major gap in the literature: does actor and/or viewpoint diversity in a news item influence audience perceptions of that news item and their views on the news issue itself?To study this, an experiment is conducted in which different levels of viewpoint and actor diversity are presented for two politically relevant topics. The stimuli are ten constructed television news items apparently from the Flemish public service broadcaster, in which the number of viewpoints and actors are manipulated. The treatment news items will be highly realistic thanks to the use of the real layout and journalists from the broadcaster. The dependent variables are perceived news item diversity, perceived opinion climate, personal opinion and news item evaluation.This research project will provide a novel understanding of when and how news content diversity influences audience perceptions and judgments. On top of addressing several gaps in the literature, it will help journalists to inform citizens better and contribute to a more diverse public debate.
Date:1 Apr 2021  →  Today
Disciplines:Journalism studies