How do Ohioans view news?
Ohioans have vastly different expectations and levels of trust in media depending on political position and often age. A statewide Your Voice Ohio poll conducted in the summer by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron revealed some of the following characteristics of news consumption:
- Older Ohioans who watch network, local and cable news plus read newspapers had the least confidence that any news source would provide the information they would like to have about important issues. They account for about 24 percent of the population.
- People who might be defined as news junkies because of high rates of consumption of all information sources had the highest confidence in news media. That group was one of the smallest, at 18 percent.
- President Donald Trump supporters were least confident that traditional media, such as local and national television and newspapers, would provide the information they wanted during the election. They tended to have more trust in cable news, family and friends, talk radio, social media and blogs.
- Neither Trump nor President-elect Joe Biden supporters expected that local newspapers would provide the information they wanted on politics and issues.
- Among religious groups, evangelical protestants had the least confidence that news media would provide the information they wanted.
Ohioans identify weaknesses in coverage
- COVID-19, structural racism and criminal justice ranked as first, fifth and eighth most important issues for Ohioans last summer. People who were most likely to name those issues consumed national newspapers, national television and cable news for information.
- The economy, affordable health care, livable wages, affordable/healthy food and quality education were the second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh most important issues, but no local or national media rose to the forefront as a reliable source. Local news generally scored poorly.
Tips for finding reliable news
- Ad Fontes Media has produced a bias table showing where major news outlets land on the political spectrum.
- The Cornell University Library offers a guide for spotting fabricated or misleading information. Some key points:
- Headlines can be misleading. Read the whole story.
- If a story from an unfamiliar news organization is brought to your attention, click directly to the source to determine its mission, funders or credibility.
- Check the date of the story. If it is not recent, it may not be relevant.
- Is the information highly unusual? If so, it may be satire or fiction.
- Check your own biases. Are your beliefs affecting your willingness or unwillingness to accept information as reliable?
- The University of Maryland provides tips to research writers that can be translated into evaluating news:
- Does the story clearly name sources and establish their credibility?
- What is the purpose of the news source? Does it attempt to appeal to a particular audience?
- Was the story written for a particular audience and, if so, what is that audience’s expectations for credibility?
- Are the authors known and respected in their field?
- Is the publication near the center of the bias spectrum and respected as a source by discerning readers?
- Are there charts and graphs that add credibility?