More Americans Are Getting Their News From Social Media

Jul 1, 2020 4:32 AM
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It isn't news that most Americans aren't reading the daily newspaper or even watching the evening news. Instead of the paper of record delivering everything from local happenings and sports scores to current events on the global stage, more and more people are turning to Facebook and Twitter.

According to a newly published Pew Research Center report 55% of U.S. adults now get their news from social media either "often" or "sometimes" – an 8% increase from last year. About three-in-ten (28%) said they get their news "often," up from 20% in 2018.

As the Pew Research's reporters noted, "social media is now a part of the news diet of an increasingly large share of the U.S. population."

Far More Than Social

The Pew Research Center's report also found that nine-in-ten (88%) of Americans also recognized that social media companies now have at least some control over the mix of the news that people see each day. About six-in-ten (62%) felt this was a problem, and said that social media companies now have far too much control over the mix of news that people see each day.

The concern over the impact that social media companies have on our daily news is very much a bipartisan issue, yet Republicans, the study found, tend to be more negative about the role social media is playing as a means of news delivery. Three-quarters (75%) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said social medias have too much control to the news people see, compared to about half (53%) of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents.

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Pew's study also found of those who rely on social media for their news, industry giant Facebook is now where about half (52%) of American adults get the news, while YouTube came in second at 28%, followed by Twitter at 17% and Instagram at 14%. LinkedIn, Reddit and Snapchat had smaller but still notable audiences at a respective 8%, 8% and 6%.

Facebook, along with Twitter and Reddit, also stood out as the sites that had the highest proportion of respective users seeking news. Almost three-quarters (73%) of users of the social network use it as a way to get news, compared to 71% of Twitter and 62% of Reddit users the Pew study found.

All The News That's Fit to Tweet

One of the factors driving this is that now almost all news organizations now rely on social media – if not to report the story then to promote those stories. For many readers, instead of clicking through to the actual reporting, the social media recap seems to be good enough.

Too often social media is also allowing an agenda to be promoted, rather than news to be reported.

"Every newspaper is owned by someone or a group of 'someones' that have their own political and otherwise agendas," explained social media consultant Lon Safko, author of The Social Media Bible.

"Look at The Wall Street Journal versus The New York Times," Safko added.

Bias that might not exist in the actual pages of the newspapers does unfortunately have a way of showing up on social media. There have been several notable cases where reporters have been reprimanded or even fired for their comments on social media.

Breitbart, CNN, Fox News, The Denver Post and The New York Post have fired or had reporters/hosts apologize for comments that they made. While firing someone for a comment made on social media may seem extreme, the bias these reporters have expressed could damage the reputation of their respective news organization.

Where the issue could get worse is if the actual reporting that is shared on social media also crosses boundaries.

"Whether its newspapers, television, Facebook, YouTube, or Google searches, someone is pulling the strings lobbying their own agendas, because there are no consequences," said Safko. "you can say anything you want and there are no consequences."

The other danger is that what is being passed off as "news" on social media is often times misinformation or outright propaganda.

"We know the Russians influenced a massive amount of political views with their war with the Ukraine by using Facebook; and we know they had an impact on our presidential election," added Safko. "We also know that Google has had an inordinate influence on the upcoming Presidential Election by giving priority to liberal/Democratic news agencies like CNN and Yahoo. We will never have truthful reporting again until there are consequences."