Small survey of graduate students and staff at the University of Oregon delivers interesting results
By John Locanthi
EUGENE, Ore. – The Internet is the primary source of news among graduate students and staff members at the University of Oregon, though trust remains low.
A small media survey of ten graduate students and staff members found that 70 percent obtained their news from online sources, greater than the number of those who read print news or watched it on TV.
“It’s easier to follow news, especially current events, on the Internet, and I can check it from work,” said Brad Fish, who works at the Computer Help Desk in the Knight Library.
The BBC, CNN, New York Times and news aggregators such as Yahoo! News and Google News were the most frequently mentioned sources for online news.
Despite the wealth of information available over the Internet, the trustworthiness and accuracy of the news media are still questioned. Sixty percent of those surveyed responded with either a “no” or “unsure” when asked if they believed the media usually got the story right.
“They usually get the facts right but don’t always provide the proper context,” Fish said.
Those who did say they trusted the newsmedia tended towards a similar, albeit more positive, on-the-fence stance
“I don’t have any reason to doubt [the facts in news stories],” said Susan Dermbach, a programs specialist for Risk Management. “I’m not out there with the reporters, so I can’t really argue with anything they say.”
Allegations of bias came hand-in-hand with the general uncertainty with the media. 90 percent of the graduate students and staff members surveyed believed the media to be biased, though no consensus could be reached on to whom they were.
The most common response to the question is that the bias depended on the publication, but there was no overarching political bent in the media.
“The local news does not favor conservatives, but Fox News favors conservatives” said Dermbach.
“I don’t think the media is biased towards either liberals or conservatives,” said Ginne Clarke, a receptionist at the Knight Library. “It’s not so much a political bias as a corporate bias.”
When asked which side they would believe if conflicting stories were published by the Oregon Daily Emerald, a student-run publication, or the Eugene Register-Guard on an issue directly affecting university students, 40 percent said they would favor the Emerald and another 40 percent wouldn’t favor either.
“The students working for the [Oregon Daily Emerald] have more at stake and would be more in tune with what is going on at the university,” said Terry Allen.
The involvement of the students was also cause for those surveyed to not side with the Emerald.
The professional staff at the Register-Guard has less direct involvement with the issue and would be able to report on the story more even-handedly, said Clarke.
The survey also found that while a majority spent more time on the Internet than reading, most of the time spent on either medium was directed towards pleasure over news. Age proved to be a major factor in time spent online.
“I spend most of my time watching TV and reading books, because I’m just too old to get into the Internet,” Dermbach said.