“Evolution of Political Communication Through the Lens of Selective Exposure Theory”
… At last, I have a title (and focus!) for my research project. In simple terms, I am investigating selective exposure (the tendency to gravitate towards news sources/information that matches one’s ideological views) throughout history. From the first partisan papers and “penny papers” to the advent of radio, television, cable news networks, and the Internet, I am going to take a historical perspective to investigating this theoretical approach.
The question I keep asking myself is – why does this matter to the average citizen? Why does what I’m studying matter in the world outside the cocoon of academia? It matters for citizens who desire to become media literate. As the mass media becomes increasingly more fragmented, citizens are vulnerable to many issues — information overload and partisan polarization among the many others. It’s important for citizens to understand what they are reading/hearing/viewing and not become overwhelmed with the multitude of information sources and stories. One cannot read an ideologically-slanted blog blindly; he or she must understand that the site is an elaborate editorialized opinion site. Without understanding what we are consuming, we cannot become informed citizens who make up an informed electorate and therefore a working democracy.
So, that’s what matters — understanding. Understanding what we’re listening to on talk radio. Understanding the motivations behind the political “experts” and pundits we’re watching on TV. Understanding the slant of a syndicated editorial in our local newspaper. A general understanding of the political media will hopefully lead to a collective informed citizenry, the ultimate basis for a functioning democracy.
Today’s lesson? Watch what you want, but know what you’re watching. That’s all for now.