When Technology Makes Headlines: The Media's Double Vision About the Digital Age

  • September 27, 2010

The mainstream news media have offered the American public a divided view of how information technology influences society, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Over the past year, messages about the promise of technology making life easier and awe about new gadgets have vied in the news with worries about privacy, child predators, shrinking attention spans and danger behind the wheel.

The most prevalent underlying message about technology's influence has been upbeat—the notion that technology is making life easier and more productive. Nearly a quarter of all technology stories studied from June 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, conveyed this idea. But that was closely followed by the sense that with that convenience comes risk—to our privacy and particularly to our children—which made up nearly two-in-ten stories, according to the study.

These are some of the findings of the PEJ study of 437 technology-related stories appearing in the lead sections of 52 different news outlets:  front pages of 11 newspapers, three cable and three network news channels, 12 websites and 10 radio programs. The study was designed to examine the media coverage that occurs when technology news crosses beyond technology-oriented outlets or news sections to the top of the American news agenda—to front-pages, the national nightly news, cable prime-time and other general interest news outlets. It did not delve into specialty publications or sections.

Read the full report When Technology Makes Headlines on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.