Media credibility in the public mind: A Critique

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Abstract

This study contests the three main assumptions that precede traditional studies of public perceptions of media credibility: (1) universally shared meaning of credibility; (2) audience rational evaluation of media performance using credibility as a core criterion; and (3) perceived credibility as a necessary condition for political participation. In building the case against the centrality of perceived media credibility in political communication scholarship, this critique also draws academic attention to the possibility that much of the findings in existing literature may be a methodological artifact because respondents have been primed to narrow their assessment of media within a set of normative and socially desirable measures. To address some of these issues, we conducted a face-to-face depth interview on 24 Hong Kong newspaper readers. We found that when unprimed, (1) credibility has minimum salience or is dormant in the public mind; (2) interviewees were quick to elicit post hoc rationalization strategies to achieve balance and reduce dissonance created by the gap between the paper they read most often and the paper they deem to be the most credible; (3) people seldom rely fully on rational routes of reasoning to assess media. Theoretical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number46
Pages (from-to)121-182
Number of pages62
JournalCommunication & Society
Volume2018
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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