Memory, Media and the News

Remember President Obama's 2010 visit to India?    After an anonymous source in the Indian government allegedly reported that the visit would cost $200 million dollars a day, all hell broke loose.   At least with the conservative news media.    In a November broadcast, Rush Limbaugh reported that the Presidential visit would cost, "Five hundred seven rooms at the Taj Mahal, 40 airplanes, $200 million a day this nation will spend  on Obama’s trip to India.”

Except for the fact that there was absolutely no truth to the story and the costs of the visit were no greater than what other presidents had spent on similar international visits in the past.   Still,  when exaggerated news stories get reported,  they seem far more likely to be remembered than the more restrained reporting that tries to get the facts straight.  

For better or worse, roughly two-thirds of Americans (66%) report that television represents their primary source of information about international and national news stories.   An additional 31 percent report that they get their information from newspapers.    Despite this reliance we all seem to have on both types of media,  there has also been a widespread rise in skepticism over how accurate these news stories are.  

In 2011, the Pew Research Center reported that negative opinions about the independence, accuracy, bias, and impartiality of most news organization have reached an all-time high.    While information from news organizations is still regarded with more trust than government and business sources.   Still, a mind-boggling 66 percent of people surveyed reported that news stories were often inaccurate, 77 percent said they were partisan, and 80 percent said they were subject to outide influence.    The declining trust in the news media that most people report seems to be linked to a perception that news stories are often exaggerated in order to promote a given viewpoint.   This perception is reinforced by the accusations of bias frequently leveled against conservative news agencies by more liberal media outlets (and vice versa).  

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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