The Public Relations BlogMedia & PsychologySocial PsychologyThe Hostile Media Effect: Why We Demonise the News Media

The Hostile Media Effect: Why We Demonise the News Media

Fear makes us paranoid about media bias.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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The hos­tile media effect is a fear-based bias.

Do you think that the news media is biased against your beliefs? Well, they might be …

… and they might also not be.

Here we go:

Enter: The Hostile Media Effect

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The Hostile Media Effect

Fake news! Alternative facts! Do you think that the news media is biased against your beliefs? Well, they might be. And they might also not be.

Researchers have found that indi­vidu­als tend to see the news media as biased against them — even when it’s not:

The hos­tile media effect […] is a per­cep­tu­al the­ory of mass com­mu­nic­a­tion that refers to the tend­ency for indi­vidu­als with a strong preex­ist­ing atti­tude on an issue to per­ceive media cov­er­age as biased against their side and in favour of their ant­ag­on­ists’ point of view.”
Source: Wikipedia 1Hostile media effect. (2022, October 25). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​H​o​s​t​i​l​e​_​m​e​d​i​a​_​e​f​f​ect

Are we para­noid? Do we see bias in the news media that isn’t there? In short: Yes.

The hos­tile media effect does­n’t imply that the media is nev­er biased. Still, sci­ence shows that oppos­ing groups often regard the same art­icles as against them and favour their opponents.

The exist­ence of the hos­tile media effect is sci­en­tific­ally well-estab­lished, but we still don’t know pre­cisely why it persists:

The hos­tile media per­cep­tion, the tend­ency for par­tis­ans to judge mass media cov­er­age as unfa­vor­able to their own point of view, has been vividly demon­strated but not well explained. This con­trast bias is intriguing because it appears to con­tra­dict a robust lit­er­at­ure on assim­il­a­tion biases — the tend­ency to find inform­a­tion more sup­port­ive, rather than more opposed, to one’s own pos­i­tion. […] con­tent eval­u­ations based on per­ceived influ­ence on one­self vs influ­ence on a broad­er audi­ence sug­ges­ted that the hos­tile media per­cep­tion may be explained by per­ceived reach of the inform­a­tion source.”
Source: Journal of Communication 2Gunther, A.C. and Schmitt, K. (2004), Mapping Boundaries of the Hostile Media Effect. Journal of Communication, 54: 55 – 70.

Research sug­gests that the primary driver could be fear of oppon­ents gain­ing in strength, and the hos­tile media effect could be seen as a psy­cho­lo­gic­al defence mechanism.

Learn more: The Hostile Media Effect: How We Demonise the News Media

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Read also: 58 Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: More Media Logic

ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Hostile media effect. (2022, October 25). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​H​o​s​t​i​l​e​_​m​e​d​i​a​_​e​f​f​ect
2 Gunther, A.C. and Schmitt, K. (2004), Mapping Boundaries of the Hostile Media Effect. Journal of Communication, 54: 55 – 70.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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