Report: 50% of Mainstream Media Tech Talk Is About Risk and Fear

For positive high tech news, head to your favorite blog, social media site or Twitter. That’s the advice from a new Pew study that found social media has a vastly different, more positive set of attitudes towards technology than mainstream media. A yearlong review of technology news coverage by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that blogs, social media sites and social networking sites report more excitement about technological advancements and the businesses behind the developments.

In contrast, the mainstream media focused almost as much on the perils of technology – privacy, cyberstalking, texting – as the positive. The positive theme that, “technology makes life more productive,” narrowly outweighed (30 percent versus 27 percent) the prevailing negative theme that the “Internet is unsafe.”

The biggest storyline in the yearlong study of 52 websites, newspapers and broadcast outlets was the dangers of texting while driving. The second-biggest topic: the launch of the latest Apple iPhones, closely followed by the debut of the iPad.

The study labeled this divided coverage of the digital age as mainstream media’s “double vision” because with every headline of “technology is making life easier and more productive,” came a follow up on the risks to users’ privacy and safety.

The few concerns, if any, reported on by social media outlets focused on obstacles to technological freedom, such as court cases, that may slow the pace of progress.

Mainstream media’s coverage seems to reflect again the friction we see among the public between a fascination with new gadgets and technology’s potential, and wariness about technology’s effects on our lives, our behavior and our privacy.

The findings show that the truly technology-obsessed are more interested in discussing the hottest technology-related topics, and also more positive overall about advancements in the field, like the latest feature on Facebook or the newest gadget from Apple.

The study also confirmed what any tech observer already knows: Apple dominates technology news. The study found that 15 percent of tech stories were primarily about Apple. Meanwhile, 11.4 percent were about Google, 7 percent focused on Twitter, 5 percent on Facebook and only 3 percent were about Microsoft.

It was only on blogs, the insider news source, that Google garnered more attention than Apple. And on Twitter, people were talking about: Twitter. The company itself was the biggest draw on its own site, where posts also geared more toward insider technical news like business acquisitions and gadget announcements than in the mainstream media.

Overall, the center found, technology made up only 1.6 percent of the total media coverage.