College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences

Social Media and the Effects on Media Trust

Turcotte in Classroom

Communication Professor Conducts Study on Social Media News Recommendations
and the Effects on News Trust 

The presence of social media is hard to ignore in a digital age, but how much is it affecting our perceptions of news and media trust? Assistant Professor Jason Turcotte from the Department of Communication recently tackled this question and believes that “more people are turning to social media for their news.”

In a recent study, “News Recommendations from Social Media Opinion Leaders: Effects on Media Trust and Information Seeking,” Turcotte worked in collaboration with Chance York of Kent State, and Jacob Irving, Rosanne M. Scholl and Raymond J. Pingree of Louisiana State.

The study consisted of an experiment with several hundred Louisiana State college students. The researchers examined whether participants viewed a news article as more trustworthy when shared through a reliable peer on social media (Facebook), versus being shared directly from the actual news source or media outlet.

In the end, the researchers conclude that “news shared by a friend on Facebook is perceived as more trustworthy than stories received directly from the media outlet” and suggests that this finding “may inform how news organizations elect to grapple with increasingly inattentive news audiences in the age of digital and social media.” Turcotte advises that news outlets move toward identifying opinion leaders on social media, such as trustworthy peers with diverse networks, in order to improve levels of public trust in the news.

The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, the official journal of the International Communication Association, first published the study in June 2015. The study then gained momentum and was covered by Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy in July.

At Cal Poly Pomona, Turcotte uses his research on news and democracy to spark conversations in his classrooms. He currently teaches courses such as Survey of Mass Communication, Reporting, Public Opinion and Propaganda, and Political Communication.

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Written by Stephanie Salazar