Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bad News is Good News

A research article in a recent Political Communication demonstrates that not all bad news is bad news, at least when it comes to media content and political participation. Using 1974 data, Paul Martin pairs a comprehensive analysis of newapaper content with national survey data to show that the news media, when covering the bad, help energize people to participate.

So the news is only bad? That's good.

He writes:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, media negativity need not be detrimental for democratic citizenship. Indeed, the media may serve as a sentinel to the people, arousing them to participate when conditions seem bleak. Rather than decrying the press for being too negative, we may wish to encourage newspapers and media outlets that paint the world in rosy colors to put the thorns back into the picture.

The effect was most pronounced for those with medium levels of knowledge. That's interesting in and of itself.

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