Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Maybe there's an upside to scandals!

A new paper in the journal Political Psychology by Beth Miller argues that scandal coverage isn't purely soft or negative, but can actually lead people to learn more about policy-related developments. This argument, if the findings are replicated in further studies, would significantly change the way we think about scandal coverage.

Up to now we've assumed that scandal coverage is a distraction from real news events such as policy changes and international events. Perhaps, however, learning more about any news helps people by giving them the tools to encounter further information about the world around them. That may be a benefit we haven't yet fully explored.

(h/t Monkey Cage)


  1. Although my personal experience with reading the news isn't statistically relevant, I generally find that reading soft news takes up the time that would otherwise be spent on reading hard news. I think it can be compared to reading versus watching TV. Once I've watched that 45 minutes of TV I can no longer allocate that time to reading a book. I think many would agree that practically speaking there just isn't enough time to read everything.

  2. I can see the benefit of being exposed to scandals as a means of inspiring people to look more into the news, but we should also keep in mind that newspaper readership has dropped significantly in the past years.

  3. if it's true that scandal coverage actually leads people to learn more about the policies, then thats great. However, Im hesitant to believe this right away. I get how it might raise people's interest in the news in general, but i dont see how people would really learn more about "real news" unless they were reading the "real news."

  4. I stand with Joey in his skepticism of this argument. On the one hand, I see the draw scandals have to the inquisitive individual. The thought of our leaders' personal lives violated and exposed in front of our faces is exciting and definitely something we'd want to read about. However, one can get carried away with this type of news and consider it to be THE news, instead of focusing on important issues that drive our policy makers on the Hill every day, and that determine the future of our nation and its foreign policies. Basically, I think scandals give the wrong impression of what's important to the citizens, and reporting on them should be kept to a minimum if possible.