Drawn from presentations by Yochai Benkler (Harvard), Adam Berinsky (MIT), Helen Boaden (BBC), Katherine Brown (Council on Foreign Relations), Kelly Greenhill (Tufts and Harvard), David Lazer (Northeastern), Filippo Menczer (Indiana), Miriam Metzger (UC Santa Barbara), Brendan Nyhan (Dartmouth), Eli Pariser (UpWorthy), Gordon Pennycook (Yale), Lori Robertson (FactCheck.org), David Rothschild (Microsoft Research), Michael Schudson (Columbia), Adam Sharp (formerly Twitter), Steven Sloman (Brown), Cass Sunstein (Harvard), Emily Thorson (Boston College), and Duncan Watts (Microsoft Research).
Recent shifts in the media ecosystem raise new concerns about the vulnerability of democratic societies to fake news and the public’s limited ability to contain it. Fake news as a form of misinformation benefits from the fast pace that information travels in today’s media ecosystem, in particular across social media platforms. An abundance of information sources online leads individuals to rely heavily on heuristics and social cues in order to determine the credibility of information and to shape their beliefs, which are in turn extremely difficult to correct or change. The relatively small, but constantly changing, number of sources that produce misinformation on social media offers both a challenge for real-time detection algorithms and a promise for more targeted socio-technical interventions.
We studied the content and Nielsen ratings for interviews on the three network Sunday morning talk shows—Meet the Press (henceforth MTP), Face the Nation (FTN), and This Week (TW). We compared three time periods—1983 (MTP, FTN), 1999 (all three shows), and 2015 (all three shows). In order to insure apples-to-apples comparisons, for over time comparisons, we either restricted our analyses to MTP and FTN or analyzed the data with and without TW. For “overall” snapshots we included all three shows (MTP, FTN, TW). Our goals were fourfold: (1) identify any discernable trends in the topics and types of guests featured on the Sunday talk shows, (2) identify any trends in audience ratings, (3) assess whether and to what extent trends in topics and guests correlate with audience ratings, and (4) assess whether, to what extent, and under what circumstances, the Sunday talk shows influence the subsequent news agenda.