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The rarefied audience of news and the credibility of journalism

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Jarred Irby is 35, lives in Missouri. In the morning, as soon as he wakes up, he checks his iPhone for notifications of a chat in which he shares news with a group of friends. Reid Barden is 17 and lives in North Carolina. For him the first meeting with the news takes place on the Instagram scroll. Ainslie Vandersluis, 53, from Michigan, when the alarm goes off he tunes to WCSG, the local Christian radio, where he keeps up with news, weather and traffic. Hung Nguyen, 63, from Virginia, reads the news on the CNN website as soon as he wakes up, but admits: “In truth, over the years social media has played an increasingly important part in my life. I can go without television news for a few days , but I can’t give up on the information online “. Then, there is Daniel Sanders, 42, from Florida, who prefers to kick off the day with the National Review app on her iPhone, while sipping coffee. For Sumari Barnes, 25 years old from California, first comes the stock market on the TD Ameritrade app.

To draw a picture of the daily media diet of Americans is the Columbia Journalism Review. Journalist Lauren Harris monitored the media relations of six people, from when they open their eyes to when they close them at night before bed. Even if in this case we cannot speak of a significant sample, some points in common emerge with the study ofInternational Journal of Press/Politics on the online or offline media consumption habits of over 28,000 people in 17 European countries.

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All respondents access information mainly through their mobile phones (probably because “it’s almost always in my pocket, so it’s accessible,” admits Reid Barden). The meeting with the news happens for these Americans mainly through sharing, chats, scrolling on social media, platforms such as Google News or Apple News, various applications, some podcasts. As for the classic media, there are a few extra seats during the day: little radio (especially in the car) and television (but also in this case the sites of the broadcasters are privileged). The newspapers, the press, on the other hand, are practically absent.

If you then measure the degree of user satisfaction, there is little to be happy about. Respondents share the feeling that all news sources are somehow unreliable and that one must rely on one’s critical sense to discern true from false. A recipe, the latter, on which Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers of the Internet”, seems to rely, as he told in the talk by Italian Tech.

We could define it as the paradox of “big binge“: today we have more sources to access news than we have ever had in the entire history of humanity, but we are losing faith in good information. It is as if background noise and fake news are sweeping us into a vortex also the credibility of good journalism. It is an alarm bell that has been ringing for too many years. Good information is one of the cornerstones of society, of democracy, it helps us to make informed decisions. We should defend it, work on it, all together – journalists, editors and readers – if we want to avoid that sooner or later the bell of “save who can be” rung.

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