DOI: 10.1177/14614448241234916 ISSN: 1461-4448

Exploring responses to mainstream news among heavy and non-news users: From high-effort pragmatic scepticism to low effort cynical disengagement

Sora Park, Caroline Fisher, Richard Fletcher, Edson Tandoc, Uwe Dulleck, Janet Fulton, Agata Stepnik, Shengnan Pinker Yao
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Communication

Research shows the growth of online information has led to a decline in audience trust in mainstream news. However, how this lowered trust in the news affects different audiences’ attitudes and news consumption behaviour is less understood. Our thematic analysis of 40 semi-structured interviews with Australian heavy and non-news users of mainstream news shows that responses vary with respect to the effort taken to verify dubious news. Among heavy news users, responses include ‘pragmatic scepticism’, ‘selective trust’ and ‘generalised cynicism’ which tend to drive verification and fact-checking behaviours. These findings suggest that mistrust in mainstream news is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can lead to greater critical involvement with news and information. However, many non-news users depicted ‘critically conscious’ or ‘cynically disengaged’ attitudes towards news. A lack of trust can drive a low-effort response, particularly among non-news consumers, creating a downward spiral of disengagement.

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