Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Virtuous and Viscious Circles

The news media promote both a virtuous and vicious circle when it comes to learning about public affairs, according to a new study in the British Journal of Sociology.

How's that for a news lede?

"The stronger finding is that use of media and, especially, a positive engagement with the news, seems to sustain both voting and an interest in politics," the authors write. That's the good news, the virtuous stuff. The "already-engaged" become more interested and engaged; however, the opposite, 'vicious circle' is also indicated, with the unengaged becoming less interested or engaged."

This sounds remarkably like the old knowledge gap thesis, though it's not cited. That's being picky. The point is that news consumption does contribute to factors of civil participation, but not so much for those already "unengaged" in voting, in discussion, in being involved in the stuff of democracy.

Good news? The media "enhances more than undermines participation." Bad news? It can also have some dampening effect in actual political action by some consumers.

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