PEJ Releases New Study on Media's Coverage of Technology's Affects on Society

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a new study, When Technology Makes Headlines: The Media’s Double Vision About the Digital Age, looking at media coverage of the impact, positive and negative, of technology’s affect on society.

The report examined 437 technology-related stories from52 mainstream news outlets including cable news, network news, news Web sites, radio news, and newspapers’ front pages, from June 1, 2009-June 30, 2010.

Among the findings from When Technology Makes Headlines: The Media’s Double Vision About the Digital Age:

• Texting while driving was the subject of 9 percent of technology stories, dwarfing other topics — PEJ said it drew five times the coverage of the U.S. broadband-access plan and six times that of the network-neutrality debate.

• The Apple iPhone 4 was the second-most-covered topic, and Apple was the most-covered tech company, beating out Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook.

• 18 percent of stories covered social change, cultural trends, and how technology is changing users’ lives, followed by reviews and new product announcements (16 percent), debate over policy issues (12 percent), and corporate activity (9 percent).

• Coverage was mostly positive, with PEJ citing Apple, Google, and Facebook as examples. For Apple, 42 percent of stories described the company as “innovative” and “superior,” and another 27 percent saluted its loyal fan base. Google drew the innovative and superior tags for 20 percent of stories. And 36 percent of Facebook items described its value in fostering communication.

• Three of the top 10 tech stories originated overseas: Twitter’s role in the 2009 protests in Iran, China (the Internet’s impact and the country’s role), and North Korea’s alleged cyber attacks on South Korean and U.S. Web sites.

• A total of 51 percent of news links shared via Twitter each week were tech-related, while that number dropped to 11 percent for blogs, but both figures eclipsed the 2 percent total for mainstream media.