People think they are trusting their local news, something reliable and familiar, when in fact they are trusting misinformation. It is a huge problem and growing. —  Rachel Moran, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington
People think they are trusting their local news, something reliable and familiar, when in fact they are trusting misinformation. It is a huge problem and growing. — Rachel Moran, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington
How Local Media Spreads Misinformation From Vaccine Skeptics
The Freedom’s Phoenix, a local news site in Phoenix, and The Atlanta Business Journal, a news site in Atlanta, both published the same article about coronavirus vaccines in March.

The author was Joseph Mercola, who researchers and regulators have said is a top spreader of misleading Covid-19 information. In the article, Dr. Mercola inaccurately likened the vaccines to “gene therapy” and argued against their usefulness.

A month later, The Freedom’s Phoenix and The Atlanta Business Journal also published another article by Dr. Mercola. This time, he blamed the billionaire Bill Gates for the pandemic, claiming Mr. Gates had “shadow control” of the World Health Organization.

Facebook and other social platforms have in recent weeks attracted attention for vaccine misinformation, as Covid cases surge from the infectious Delta variant and vaccination rates slow. But The Freedom’s Phoenix and The Atlanta Business Journal are two small publications — along with dozens of radio and television stations, and podcasts aimed at local audiences — that have also become powerful conduits for anti-vaccine messaging, researchers said.

Dr. Mercola and other superspreaders of anti-vaccine content, who have been listed by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate as the “Disinformation Dozen,” have appeared in articles in local publications or as guests on local radio shows and podcasts, according to a review by The New York Times. Some of their articles are regularly published by small-town newspapers or they are quoted as experts, The Times found.


Their appearances on local media can have an impact since Americans are more likely to believe what they read and hear from local news outlets. A 2019 Knight-Gallup study found that 45 percent of Americans trust reporting by local news organizations “a great deal” or “quite a lot,” compared with 31 percent for national news organizations.

“People think they are trusting their local news, something reliable and familiar, when in fact they are trusting misinformation,” said Rachel Moran, a fellow at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington. “It is a huge problem and growing.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/01/technology/local-media-misinformation-vaccine-skeptics.html