Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Americans are wary of role social media plays in delivering the news

TODD SMITH — Americans are wary of role social media plays in delivering the news


While debate rages over how social media sites can improve the quality of news they offer while enforcing rules fairly, most Americans are pessimistic about these efforts and are highly concerned about several issues when it comes to social media and news.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted July 8-21, majorities say that social media companies have too much control over the news on their sites, and the role social media companies play in delivering the news on their sites results in a worse mix of news for users. At the same time, social media is now a part of the news diet of an increasingly large share of the U.S. population.

The study also examined Americans’ perceptions of the biggest problems when it comes to social media and news, the political slant of news posts they see on social media, and which sites they go to for news.

Almost all Americans – about nine-in-10 (88%) – recognize that social media companies have at least some control over the mix of news people see. And most Americans feel this is a problem: About six-in-ten (62%) say social media companies have too much control over the mix of news that people see on their sites, roughly four times as many as say that they don’t have enough control (15%). Just 21% say that social media companies have the right amount of control over the news people see.

Among key findings:

While most Americans are pessimistic about the control social media companies have over the news people see, Republicans tend to be more negative than Democrats. Three-quarters (75%) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say social media companies have too much control over the mix of news that people see, compared with about half (53%) of Democrats and Democratic leaners who say the same. More Republicans (66%) than Democrats (49%) also say that these efforts result in a worse mix of news for users.


A large majority of Americans believe that social media companies favor some news organizations over others. About eight-in-10 U.S. adults (82%) say social media sites treat some news organizations differently than others, about five times the share who say that all news organizations are treated the same (16%). And among those U.S. adults who say social media companies treat some news organizations differently than others, there is broad agreement about the types of organizations they favor: those that produce attention-grabbing articles (88%), those with a high number of social media followers (84%) and those whose coverage has a certain political stance (79%).


Of seven potential issues asked about when it comes to news on social media sites, Americans are most likely to name one-sided news (53%) and inaccurate news (51%) as very big problems. Meanwhile, about a third of U.S. adults (35%) say that censorship of the news and uncivil discussions on social media (35%) are a very big problem on these sites. Fewer name harassment of journalists (27%), the banning of news organizations and personalities (24%) and violent or disturbing news images and videos as big problems.


Republicans and Democrats disagree somewhat about which of these seven issues are very big problems when it comes to news on social media sites, especially when it comes to censorship and harassment. Republicans and Republican leaners are more likely to see censorship of the news as a very big problem on social media (43%) than Democrats and Democratic leaners (30%). Democrats, on the other hand, are about twice as likely as Republicans to say that the harassment of journalists on social media is a very big problem (36% vs. 17%). Despite these differences, one-sided news and inaccurate news top the list among both Republicans and Democrats.


Many Americans also say that the news posts they see on social media – which could come from news organizations or individual users – tend to lean to the left ideologically. Nearly half of social media news consumers (48%) describe the posts about news they see on social media as liberal or very liberal. A much smaller share – 14% – say the news posts they see are conservative or very conservative, while 36% say the news they see is moderate. Among social media news consumers, Republicans are more likely to say that the news they see leans liberal or very liberal (64%) than are Democrats (37%).


Getting news from social media sites is an increasingly common experience. More than half of U.S. adults get news from social media often or sometimes (55%), up from 47% in 2018.


Facebook is the social media site Americans use most commonly for news, with about half (52%) of all U.S. adults getting news on the site. The next most popular social media site for news is YouTube (28% of adults get news there), followed by Twitter (17%) and Instagram (14%). A number of other social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Reddit and Snapchat, have smaller news audiences.


Though news on Facebook reaches the most Americans, other social media sites have similarly large proportions of their users getting news on their platforms. Along with Facebook, Twitter and Reddit stand out as the sites where the highest proportion of users get news – 73% of Facebook’s users get news on the site, as well as 71% of Twitter’s users and 62% of Reddit’s.


Check out the full report at https://www.journalism.org/2019/10/02/americans-are-wary-of-the-role-social-media-sites-play-in-delivering-the-news/

California Moves to Allow College Athlete Endorsement Deals

California recently opened the way for college athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsement deals with major brands such as shoe companies, auto dealers, soft drink makers and other sponsors – just like the pros.

The first law of its kind, signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and set to take effect in 2023, could send amateur sports in the U.S. into disarray and trigger legal challenges. It is also very much at odds with the NCAA.

Newsom and others positioned the move as an attempt to bring more fairness to big-money college athletics and let players share in the wealth they create for their schools. Critics have long complained that universities are getting rich off the backs of athletes.

Newsom predicted other states will introduce similar legislation.

The NCAA called on him to veto the bill, arguing that it would destroy the distinction between amateurs and pros and give California an unfair recruiting advantage, and is considering its next steps.

In a statement to the Associated Press, the NCAA said it is working to revise its rules on making money off a player’s name and likeness. But it said any changes should be made at the national level through the NCAA, not through a patchwork of state laws.

California’s law applies to students at both public and private institutions, but not community colleges, in the nation’s most populous state. While the measure covers all sports, the major money is in football and basketball.

Student athletes won’t get salaries. But under the law, they can’t be stripped of their scholarships or kicked off the team if they sign endorsement deals, according to the AP.

A committee is also studying other ways players could make money, and that report is expected later this month.

The NCAA lets some athletes accept money in certain instances. Tennis players can accept up to $10,000 in prize money per year, and Olympians can accept winnings from their competitions. Also, many schools pay players yearly cost-of-living stipends, according to AP.

All this could be a slippery sports slope for both the NCAA and the colleges and universities it represents.

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.


… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About For the MBJ