Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mixed Media

People are skimmers: a little from this medium, a little from that medium, a dash of this and a smidgen of that. There is hard news and soft news. Some rely on the New York Times or NPR, some rely on Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh, but most people take a little of everything to make up their news media diet.

Take this notion and combine it with criticism of how journalists often frame the news as a contest and you get -- best I can tell -- an interesting study like this. The link provides only the abstract, but these are serious folks doing the study and the abstract alone is enough to make me want to find an obscure journal like CyberPsychology and Behavior.

From what I read, they seem to suggest that framing political stories as a game, as competition, or as they call it -- strategically -- appears to help people who use mixed media make sense of the political world, or at least keep "absorbing and learning in a mixed media environment."

As I can't see the whole piece, we'll have to rely on the abstract, but it raises a pretty cool question and point. For some people, stories framed as a competition keeps them engaged, especially if they use a mix of lots of media (and are perhaps less politically involved on a whole). Horse race polls are bad? Perhaps not always. Stories framed as a game trivialize the process? Maybe, but they may also engage people. We know that entertainment-based news like The Daily Show does seem to break through the attention barrier for some folks, though it remains up in the air how much they learn versus how much they think they learn from such programs.

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