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News Objectivity and Political Conversation: An Experimental Study of Mad Cow Disease and Candlelight Protest

July 27, 2012 Comments off

News Objectivity and Political Conversation: An Experimental Study of Mad Cow Disease and Candlelight Protest (PDF)

Source:  Development and Society

This study examines how journalistic objectivity in relation to interpersonal communication plays a role in democratic development driven by civic engagement. According to public journalists who candidly express their subjective opinions and contentious arguments in news reporting, the journalistic norm of objectivity has been blamed for causing public cynicism because it deteriorates civic participation. Focusing on the 2008 mad cow disease upheaval, an experiment was conducted to determine whether or not objective reporting actually inhibits political participation and whether or not a news article reinforcing a specific position promotes civic engagement in the candlelight protest. College students were recruited and given two types of news articles as experimental stimuli to measure their attitude towards political protest. The result indicates that the impact of news article types on the subjects’ intention to participate depends on their level of conversation with fellow citizens. For subjects who conversed frequently with others on the issue, the objective article enhanced their intention to participate in the protest. The reinforcing article enhanced participation among those who had a low level of conversation with fellow citizens. Therefore, this paper draws implications on the relationship between journalism and participatory democracy.

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