Unit 9 - Public Information

General Purpose:  To understand how media affects the way people
think about news, politics, and public information.

Unit Outline

I.   The Human Information Processor - we are receivers of
     information

     A.   The Thinker versus The Miser (Lisa and Homer) 

          1.   Thinker - careful, mindful, deep

          2.   Miser - careless, mindless, look at the surface

     B.   What Do Different Processors Think About?  

          1.   Lisa and Arguments - essential information 

          2.   Homer and Cues - influential but doesn't require
               any thought 

     C.   Advantages and Disadvantages of Thinkers - you don't get
          fooled but you have to collect information.

     D.   Advantages and Disadvantages of Misers - you can easily
          get tricked.

II.  TV News as a Teacher

     A.   50% of Americans Get 100% of News from TV

          1.   Easy Access 

          2.   Easier to Process Compared to Print

          3.   Illiteracy - 10% of Americans are illiterate

     B.   TV News and Learning (Robinson & Levy, 1986)

          1.   Basic Setup

               a.   Most of these studies are natural studies (no
                    lab setting).

               b.   You get the normal viewing habits of people.

               c.   Studies revolve around the comparison of TV
                    news and print.

          2.   Comprehension of One Newscast

               a.   People recall approximately 30-40% of
                    information correctly.

          3.   Learning from One Week's News

               a.   Started off with two surveys - individuals who
                    exclusively watch news and individuals who use
                    print and TV then gave both groups a recall
                    test.

               b.   TV watchers average 30-40% correct recall. 
                    Print users score 20-40% higher.

          4.   Long Term Learning and TV News

               a.   Same set up and result as above

          5.   Conclusions 

               a.   There is a problem with TV news as a teacher
                    (in the Homer mode - mindless).
               b.   1/3 of the TV news is advertising.

III. Accuracy in the News (Singer, 1990)

     A.   How Reliable Is the News?

     B.   A Simple Test:  Scientific Reporting

          1.   Not Usually a Breaking Story

          2.   An Agreed Upon Standard of Accuracy - you can chase
               down the research.

     C.   Hazard Stories from 1984

          1.   What's a Hazard?  threat to human life or safety

          2.   Selecting the Stories 

               a.   Looked at elite media sources (Times, Post,
                    NBC, CBS, etc.).

               b.   42 studies were reported.

               c.   Is the story accurate or not?

          3.   Inaccuracies:  Errors, Alterations, Omissions

               a.   Errors 

               b.   Alterations 

               c.   Omissions 

          4.   Results - see page 120

     D.   Conclusions

          1.   Singer's research indicates that news media makes
               mistakes.

          2.   Very unpredictable what is accurate.

          3.   Buyer beware (information is probably flawed).

VII. Summary Points about Information and Media

     A.   Moderate to Large Thinking Effects

     B.   Small to Moderate Attitude Effects

     C.   Side Effects - priming and agenda setting

     D.   Caveat Emptor - can not be a Homer Simpson - got to think
          about it


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Notes prepared by Teresa Jones, Spring, 1996. Page created April 21, 1996; updated on October 14, 1999. Edited by Mike Lowry Copyright © Teresa Jones and Steve Booth-Butterfield, 1996.