Media Offers Divided View of IT

September 28, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Media & Entertainment | Newspapers | Radio | Television

The mainstream news media have offered the American public a divided view of how information technology influences society, according to findings from the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Tech Stories Feature Rewards, Risks
The most prevalent underlying message about technology’s influence in the mainstream media during the past year has been upbeat. Close to one quarter (23%) of all technology stories Pew studied from June 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010 conveyed the notion that technology is making life easier and more productive.

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However, that was closely followed by the almost one in five stories (18%) spreading a message that technology puts privacy and minors at risk.

Texting While Driving Single Most Popular Storyline
The biggest single event or storyline during the year involved the practice of texting while driving. Nearly 10% of technology stories were about this subject, more than five times the coverage of the US plan for broadband access and six times the coverage devoted to the debate regarding net neutrality.

The second-biggest storyline addressed a more positive development: the launch of the latest Apple iPhones. Attention to the release of the iPad was not far behind.

Social Change Biggest Topic
The topics within technology coverage varied widely, but the largest number (18%) concerned stories about social change and cultural trends, or how technology is changing our lives. Those were closely followed by reviews and announcements about new consumer devices (16%). Policy issues under debate saw less coverage (12%), as did corporate goings-on (9%).

SocNets More Upbeat
While the mainstream press had a split vision of technology, social media reflected a different set of attitudes. An examination of blogs, social media sites and Twitter posts found more excitement about technological advancements and the businesses behind the developments. And the concerns, when there were some, focused on obstacles to technological freedom, such as pending court cases, which might get in the way of progress.

Apple Beats Google in Press Coverage
Apple beat out Google in press coverage between June 2009 and June 2010, according to other findings from the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism. Apple has recently attracted more coverage from the mainstream press than any other technology company, and Pew analysis indicates the bulk of it has been positive. From June 2009 through June 2010, 15% of the technology stories focused primarily on Apple, compared to 11% about Google.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted a study of 437 technology-related stories appearing in the lead sections of 52 different news outlets: front pages of 11 newspapers, three cable and three network news channels, 12 websites and 10 radio programs.

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