Using the Internet for News and Perceptions of News Organization Bias

Article excerpt

EXECUTIVE SUMMERY

As more news consumers throughout the world have access to the Internet, profound changes are occurring in the way people receive their news. Technologies such as the Internet offer the user a competitive alternative to traditional mass media. Lacking the rigid structure of more traditional media, customers are quickly drawn to Internet sources of news that have many characteristics of alternative media. This study explores how perceptions of ideological bias in news differ between Internet news users and non-users. Findings show that user perceptions of ideological bias in news organizations may be a possible catalyst for Internet news use.

Keywords: Internet, mass media, bias, public opinion

INTRODUCTION

As more news consumers throughout the world have access to the Internet, profound changes are occurring in the way people receive their news. Internet news outlets are seen as the most promising segment of the news industry as usage of some traditional news sources decline (Weak Online Economics, 2004). Technologies such as the Internet offer the consumer an alternative to traditional mass media and provide a way to bypass traditional media and sometimes government regulation. As opposed to the operation of more traditional news media, new communication technologies such as the Internet provide more of an unstructured flow of news to their consumers.

Surfing the web for news is affecting the international market for traditional mass media, such as major daily newspapers, broadcast radio and television network news. Use of the Internet for news is drawing people away from these news sources, with fewer people saying that they enjoy traditional news reports (Pew, 2000). Ray Warren, chief executive officer of Carat North America, a major media firm, forecasts a migration of advertising revenue into nontraditional media markets (Consoli, 2006). The migration may be a reflection of how consumers have been moving away from major networks for decades.

In the United States, the "big three" television networks now reach just a third of the overall evening television news audience (down from 72 percent two decades ago), as more and more news consumers use the Internet to satisfy their need for news information (Pew, 1996). Less than 30 percent of Internet users report that they regularly watch a nightly news broadcast from a major network (Pew, 2000).

Using the Internet for news can also have a profound impact in business, development, entertainment, education, and other areas. Even though there is no evidence of a sudden migration to Internet news, and advertising revenues of traditional media are not yet affected by electronic news consumption (Ahlers, 2006), the Internet news market is characterized by low barriers to entry and continues to differentiate itself from traditional media (Chyi & Sylvie, 1998). This study focuses on Internet use as an alternative or supplement to traditional mass media news sources. The impact of such use could be considerable in that, in some cases, users could not only bypass traditional media but circumvent governmental restrictions.

Why are so many consumers turning to the Internet for news? The distrust of and perceptions of bias in traditional media sources may explain why many users are getting their news from the Internet.

New Media Characteristics and Growth of Internet News

New communications technologies in the 1980s influenced freedom of expression, including written and broadcast material and the way news and other information was received by the public (Balle, 1985). Technologies such as the Internet provide news and information people needed to participate in democratic processes. Such use of the Internet to keep up with happenings in the environment may be viewed as a function of the media uses and gratifications approach (Blumer, 1979).

More recently, attention of scholars in technology, communications, and sociology have begun to examine advanced use of alternative media, such as the Internet and its role in the war of ideologies in the post 9/11 political climate. …