Sounds like a dance, the old two-step flow. You put your left foot in, you take your left foot out ... and so on and so on. But I was thinking the other day about the shrinking news audience, especially a more partisan news audience, and I came to wonder whether the old two-step flow and opinion leaders, concepts from the early days of mass comm research, haven't become even more important.
Briefly, the concepts have to do with interpersonal communication, of opinion leaders passing information down to others. The media inform some, who in turn inform others. Water cooler chatter. Back fence talk. Elevator conversation material. All that stuff. With a mass audience this seems less important, but now with a highly fragmented audience with relatively few opting for news versus entertainment, it seems to me we'll see more reliance on what people about the news since many don't (or won't) consume it.
You know the routine, those people who say "I heard it on TV" or "I read it online somewhere" and then repeate a badly remembered factoid, which may or may not be true, but it becomes true to them because not only do they vaguely remember it, but they have repeated it to someone else. And then those people, who don't consume news themselves, are unlikely to have that factoid challenged because they don't attend to the news. They accept it, maybe pass it on to others.
Any solution? Not much of one, I'm afraid. A lot of people have fled the news for entertainment, for quality programming like Dancing with the Stars. What they "hear" from others will inform their opinions, their votes.
Yup. Scary world.