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How The Media Reported A Pew Study About Itself

A Pew study examined who Americans go to for news, which outlets they trust most and how liberals and conservatives live in different media worlds.
Posted at 8:39 PM, Oct 21, 2014

The media loves a good story about the media, and what better occasion for some self-analysis than the release of Pew Research Center's latest study on how Americans consume their news?

The study, called "Political Polarization & Media Habits," broke down survey respondents by political affiliation, asking them where they get their news and which sources they trust. 

The big take-away making all the headlines is that liberals and conservatives live in basically opposite media worlds, visiting sites that align with what they already think.

Now, the idea that we're increasingly living inside media bubbles isn't particularly new. Some have blamed social media:

TED: "I was kind of surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed."

Some blame search engines:

BBC: "Experiencing a personalized and limited internet which filters out stuff that doesn't match our own likes and prejudices."

And the results weren't particularly shocking, either. Liberals love NPR, PBS and The New York Times, conservatives love Fox News and talk radio.

But there's got to be a media narrative in there somewhere, right? How about, "Liberals are intolerant"?

That's a headline conservative sites latched onto. The study says liberals were more likely to say they had blocked or unfriended somebody over political disagreements. The Blaze even called it a "distinctly liberal tactic."

FOX NEWS: "So you're saying conservatives are more loyal?"

"No, tolerant. They're more tolerant."

"And loyal."

But conservatives weren't innocent of political unfriending, especially when you consider that they were less likely to ever see a political disagreement in their timeline in the first place.

The other big talking point was poor, poor Buzzfeed, which, despite having a serious news section, was the least-trusted source by pretty much everyone. Guess people still associate it more with listicles and quizzes

Buzzfeed's editor-in-chief Ben Smith took the news well, telling Talking Points Memo: "Most of the great news organizations have been around for decades, and trust is something you earn over time. ... Our organization is new, our news operation is even newer, and it’s early days for us."

On the other side of the coin, The Wall Street Journal was too classy to brag about its spot as the most widely-trusted news outlet anywhere on the site — but a few of its reporters and editors couldn't resist pointing it out on Twitter.

The whole study is available on Pew's website.