Critical Analysis - 'Cognitive Dissonance, Media Illiteracy and Public Opinion on News Media’

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Claussen, Dane S. 2004, ‘Cognitive Dissonance, Media illiteracy and Public Opinion on News Media’, American Behavioral Scientist, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp. 212-218.

Topic –

The article ‘Cognitive Dissonance, Media Illiteracy and Public Opinion on News Media’ is examining and discussing public opinion, media illiteracy and cognitive dissonance. The author takes you through a break down on public opinion of newspapers and television news and shows why a lot of the quantitative research taken over the past several decades is in fact invalid. The main purpose of this article is to compare and contrast newspaper and television news, and investigate the reasons why one source is more credible and reliable than the other. He also discusses the decline in the audiences of both.

Context –

Many other scholars have cited Claussen as to why he believes people choose TV news over newspaper is because ‘it is human nature to want a name and a face and a voice with communication’ (Claussen, 2006). It touches on the questions raised by other papers regarding the creditability of TV news and why people choose to watch the news as entertainment instead of reading newspapers for the facts, which also shows the differences in public opinion over the several decades in which the information is gathered. It follows in with fields of study such as journalism, media studies and mass communication as it breaks down how these types of communication are influential to the public. It intertwines with psychology, public sociology and cultural studies as the article examines the thought pattern and reasoning as to how people choose their preferred style of news consumption.

Structure –

This research article is developed from the findings of quantitative research conducted by the U.S. newspaper industry, American Society of Newspaper Editors and most recently The Ford Foundation. The article itself has two formal headings to break down what is being discussed and where the information was extracted: 1) Studies and Surveys About Newspapers Versus Television, and 2) Reasons Why The U.S. Public Gave Television News A Free Pass. The sections of this article are quite clear. It starts with the introduction, which gives an extensive summary of what is being discussed, whom this topic is affecting and the reasons why this information was gathered. It then moves Claussen’s main argument under the heading; Studies and Surveys About Newspapers Versus Televisions. In this section you find the evidence to support the author’s claims about the difference between newspapers and television news and the public’s opinion on this matter. The article then moves on to the second heading, Reasons Why the U.S. Public Gave Television News a Free Pass, which itself is a bold statement of the author’s viewpoint. Continually referencing Newhagen and Nass’ article ‘Differential Criteria for Evaluating Credibility of Newspapers and TV News’ (Newhagen and Nass, 1989), which shares Claussen’s view, this section also serves as a conclusion. This section concludes with the opinion that the reason why people choose TV news over newspapers is due to the public’s illiteracy of the media. The author is able to communicate his thoughts and ideas clearly without the use of diagrams, tables or visual aids. He uses ample facts and figures to support his argument, in a clear and well-structured article. Overall, the structure of this piece has been easy to follow, simple to read and very informative.

Style –

This is an informative yet persuasive piece; Claussen uses research to persuade the audience of his opinion on news consumption by the public. He is writing to a general audience, anyone who is interested in reading about this topic will find it to be an interesting piece to read. The language is simple and neutral, and is clear and easy to understand with minimal use of jargon and difficult words. The article is formal, and he does not use descriptive...
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