Skip to main content

News Consumption and Its Unpleasant Side Effect

Studying the Effect of Hard and Soft News Exposure on Mental Well-Being Over Time

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-1105/a000224

Abstract. Following the news is generally understood to be crucial for democracy as it allows citizens to politically participate in an informed manner; yet, one may wonder about the unintended side effects it has for the mental well-being of citizens. With news focusing on the negative and worrisome events in the world, framing that evokes a sense of powerlessness, and lack of entertainment value, this study hypothesizes that news consumption decreases mental well-being via negative hedonic experiences; thereby, we differentiate between hard and soft news. Using a panel survey in combination with latent growth curve modeling (n = 2,767), we demonstrate that the consumption of hard news television programs has a negative effect on the development of mental well-being over time. Soft news consumption, by contrast, has a marginally positive impact on the trend in well-being. This can be explained by the differential topic focus, framing and style of soft news vis-à-vis hard news. Investigating the effects of news consumption on mental well-being provides insight into the impact news exposure has on variables other than the political ones, which definitively are not less societally relevant.

References

  • Althaus, S. L. (2012). What’s good and bad in political communication research? Normative standards for evaluating media and citizen performance. In H. A. SemetkoM. ScammellEds., The SAGE handbook of political communication (pp. 97–112). London, UK: Sage. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Atkin, C. K. (1972). Anticipated communication and mass media information-seeking. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(2), 188–199. First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bartsch, A. & Schneider, F. M. (2014). Entertainment and politics revisited: How non-escapist forms of entertainment can stimulate political interest and information seeking. Journal of Communication, 64(3), 369–396. doi: 10.1111/jcom.12095 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Baum, M. A. (2002). Sex, lies, and war: How soft news brings foreign policy to the inattentive public. American Political Science Review, 96(1), 91–110. doi: 10.1017/S0003055402004252 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Baum, M. A. (2003). Soft news goes to war: Public opinion and American foreign policy in the new media age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Benesch, S. (1998). The rise of solutions journalism. Columbia Journalism Review, 36(6), 36–39. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Bird, S. E. (1998). News we can use: An audience perspective on the tabloidisation of news in the United States. Javnost-the Public, 5(3), 33–49. doi: 10.1080/13183222.1998.11008681 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Boczkowski, P. J. & Mitchelstein, E. (2010). Is there a gap between the news choices of journalists and consumers? A relational and dynamic approach. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 15(4), 420–440. doi: 10.1177/1940161210374646 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bos, L., Kruikemeier, S. & de Vreese, C. (2014). Gescheiden media? Sociaal-culturele verschillen in mediaconsumptie. In M. BovensP. DekkerW. TiemeijerEds., Gescheiden werelden? Een verkenning van sociaal-culturele tegenstellingen in Nederland [Separated worlds? An exploration of socio-cultural contradictions in the Netherlands] (pp. 235–254). Den Haag, The Netherlands: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau, Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Boukes, M. & Boomgaarden, H. G. (2015). Soft news with hard consequences? Introducing a nuanced measure of soft versus hard news exposure and its relationship with political cynicism. Communication Research, 42, 701–731. doi: 10.1177/0093650214537520 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Boukes, M., Boomgaarden, H. G., Moorman, M. & de Vreese, C. H. (2015). At odds: Laughing and thinking? The appreciation, processing, and persuasiveness of political satire. Journal of Communication, 65(5), 721–744. doi: 10.1111/jcom.12173 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bourdieu, P. (2001). Television. European Review, 9(3), 245–256. doi: 10.1017/s1062798701000230 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Brants, K. & Neijens, P. (1998). The infotainment of politics. Political Communication, 15(2), 149–164. doi: 10.1080/10584609809342363 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cappella, J. N. & Jamieson, K. H. (1996). News frames, political cynicism, and media cynicism. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 546, 71–84. doi: 10.1177/0002716296546001007 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Costera Meijer, I. (2003). What is quality television news? A plea for extending the professional repertoire of newsmakers. Journalism Studies, 4(1), 15–29. doi: 10.1080/14616700306496 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Curran, J., Salovaara-Moring, I., Coen, S. & Iyengar, S. (2010). Crime, foreigners and hard news: A cross-national comparison of reporting and public perception. Journalism, 11(1), 3–19. doi: 10.1177/1464884909350640 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Damstra, A. & Boukes, M. (2017). The economy, the news, and the public, ICA 67th Annual Conference, San Diego, CA First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • De Smedt, J., Hooghe, M. & Walgrave, S. (2011). Vlaamse televisiejournaals: Het buitenland verdwijnt van de radar: Criminaliteit, cultuur, politiek en buitenland in de vlaamse televisiejournaals (2003–2010) [Flemish television news: The overseas disappears from the radar: Crime, culture, politics and foreign news in the Flemish television news]. Retrieved from http://www.nieuwsarchief.be/docs/Nieuwsmonitor_4.pdf First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: An introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 1–11. doi: 10.1007/s10902-006-9018-1 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Denissen, J. J., Butalid, L., Penke, L. & Van Aken, M. A. (2008). The effects of weather on daily mood: A multilevel approach. Emotion, 8(5), 662–667. doi: 10.1037/a0013497 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Diddi, A. & LaRose, R. (2006). Getting hooked on news: Uses and gratifications and the formation of news habits among college students in an internet environment. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(2), 193–210. doi: 10.1207/s15506878jobem5002_2 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Esser, F., Engesser, S., Matthes, J. & Berganza, R. (2017). Negativity. In C. H. de VreeseF. EsserD. N. HopmannEds., Comparing political journalism (pp. 71–91). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Eveland, W. P., Hayes, A. F., Shah, D. V. & Kwak, N. (2005). Understanding the relationship between communication and political knowledge: A model comparison approach using panel data. Political Communication, 22(4), 423–446. doi: 10.1080/10584600500311345 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gerbner, G. (1988). Violence and terror in the mass media. Paris, France: Unesco. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M. & Signorielli, N. (1986). Living with television: The dynamics of the cultivation process. In J. BryantD. ZillmannEds., Perspectives on media effects (pp. 17–40). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Grabe, M. E., Zhou, S. & Barnett, B. (2001). Explicating sensationalism in television news: Content and the bells and whistles of form. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 45(4), 635–655. doi: 10.1207/s15506878jobem4504_6 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Graber, D. A. (2004). Mediated politics and citizenship in the twenty-first century. Annual Review of Psychology, 55(1), 545–571. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141550 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gross, K. (2008). Framing persuasive appeals: Episodic and thematic framing, emotional response, and policy opinion. Political Psychology, 29(2), 169–192. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9221.2008.00622.x First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Harcup, T. & O’Neill, D. (2001). What is news? Galtung and Ruge revisited. Journalism Studies, 2(2), 261–280. doi: 10.1080/14616700118449 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hendriks Vettehen, P., Beentjes, J., Nuijten, K. & Peeters, A. (2011). Arousing news characteristics in Dutch television news 1990–2004: An exploration of competitive strategies. Mass Communication and Society, 14(1), 93–112. doi: 10.1080/15205431003615893 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hendriks Vettehen, P., Nuijten, K. & Peeters, A. (2008). Explaining effects of sensationalism on liking of television news stories: The role of emotional arousal. Communication Research, 35(3), 319–338. doi: 10.1177/0093650208315960 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Iyengar, S. (1991). Is anyone responsible? How television frames political issues. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jacobs, L., Meeusen, C. & d’Haenens, L. (2016). News coverage and attitudes on immigration: Public and commercial television news compared. European Journal of Communication, 31(6), 642–660. doi: 10.1177/0267323116669456 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Johnson, R. N. (1996). Bad news revisited: The portrayal of violence, conflict, and suffering on television news. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 2(3), 201–216. doi: 10.1207/s15327949pac0203_2 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kist, R. & Nieber, L. (2016). Weer een aanslag: Zij willen er niks meer over lezen [Another attack: They do not want to read anything about it]. Retrieved from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2016/07/25/weg-met-die-foute-wereld-3338264-a1513226 First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Klein, P. (2016). Weg met het rotnieuws [Go away with the bad news]. Retrieved from http://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nederland/column/pieter-klein/weg-met-het-rotnieuws First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Lee, A. M. (2013). News audiences revisited: Theorizing the link between audience motivations and news consumption. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(3), 300–317. doi: 10.1080/08838151.2013.816712 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lehman-Wilzig, S. N. & Seletzky, M. (2010). Hard news, soft news, ‘general’ news: The necessity and utility of an intermediate classification. Journalism, 11(1), 37–56. doi: 10.1177/1464884909350642 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lengauer, G., Esser, F. & Berganza, R. (2012). Negativity in political news: A review of concepts, operationalizations and key findings. Journalism, 13(2), 179–202. doi: 10.1177/1464884911427800 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lippmann, W. (1922). Public opinion. New York, NY: Macmillan. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Lowry, D. T., Nio, T. C. J. & Leitner, D. W. (2003). Setting the public fear agenda: A longitudinal analysis of network TV crime reporting, public perceptions of crime, and FBI crime statistics. Journal of Communication, 53(1), 61–73. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2003.tb03005.x First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Maier, S. (2010). All the news fit to post? Comparing news content on the web to newspapers, television, and radio. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 87(3–4), 548–562. doi: 10.1177/107769901008700307 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • McLeod, J. M., Scheufele, D. A. & Moy, P. (1999). Community, communication, and participation: The role of mass media and interpersonal discussion in local political participation. Political Communication, 16(3), 315–336. doi: 10.1080/105846099198659 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Otto, L., Glogger, I. & Boukes, M. (2017). The softening of journalistic political communication: A comprehensive framework model of sensationalism, soft news, infotainment, and tabloidization. Communication Theory, 27(2), 136–155. doi: 10.1111/comt.12102 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Patterson, T. E. (2000). Doing well and doing good: How soft news and critical journalism are shrinking the news audience and weakening democracy – And what news outlets can do about it. Cambridge, UK: Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Pfefferbaum, B., Seale, T. W., McDonald, N. B., Brandt, E. N. Jr., Rainwater, S. M., Maynard, B. T., … Miller, P. D. (2000). Posttraumatic stress two years after the Oklahoma city bombing in youths geographically distant from the explosion. Psychiatry, 63(4), 358–370. doi: 10.1080/00332747.2000.11024929 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Postman, N. (1986). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. London, UK: Heinemann. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Preacher, K. J. (2010). Latent growth curve models. In G. R. HancockR. O. MuellerEds., The reviewer’s guide to quantitative methods in the social sciences (pp. 185–198). London, UK: Routledge. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Prior, M. (2007). Post-broadcast democracy: How media choice increases inequality in political involvement and polarizes elections. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Reinecke, L. (2009). Games and recovery: The use of video and computer games to recuperate from stress and strain. Journal of Media Psychology, 21(3), 126–142. doi: 10.1027/1864-1105.21.3.126 First citation in articleLinkGoogle Scholar

  • Reinecke, L., Klatt, J. & Krämer, N. C. (2011). Entertaining media use and the satisfaction of recovery needs: Recovery outcomes associated with the use of interactive and noninteractive entertaining media. Media Psychology, 14(2), 192–215. doi: 10.1080/15213269.2011.573466 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Reinemann, C., Stanyer, J., Scherr, S. & Legnante, G. (2012). Hard and soft news: A review of concepts, operationalizations and key findings. Journalism, 13(2), 221–239. doi: 10.1177/1464884911427803 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Rieger, D., Reinecke, L., Frischlich, L. & Bente, G. (2014). Media entertainment and well-being – Linking hedonic and eudaimonic entertainment experience to media-induced recovery and vitality. Journal of Communication, 64(3), 456–478. doi: 10.1111/jcom.12097 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Robinson, M. J. (1976). Public affairs television and the growth of political malaise: The case of “the selling of the pentagon”. The American Political Science Review, 70(2), 409–432. doi: 10.2307/1959647 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Romer, D., Jamieson, K. H. & Aday, S. (2003). Television news and the cultivation of fear of crime. Journal of Communication, 53(1), 88–104. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2003.tb03007.x First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Roth, F. S., Weinmann, C., Schneider, F. M., Hopp, F. R. & Vorderer, P. (2014). Seriously entertained: Antecedents and consequences of hedonic and eudaimonic entertainment experiences with political talk shows on TV. Mass Communication and Society, 17(3), 379–399. doi: 10.1080/15205436.2014.891135 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Rucinski, D. (1992). Personalized bias in news: The potency of the particular? Communication Research, 19(1), 91–108. doi: 10.1177/009365092019001004 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ryfe, D. M. (2009). Broader and deeper: A study of newsroom culture in a time of change. Journalism, 10(2), 197–216. doi: 10.1177/1464884908100601 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schlenger, W. E., Caddell, J. M., Ebert, L., Jordan, B. K., Rourke, K. M., Wilson, D., … Kulka, R. A. (2002). Psychological reactions to terrorist attacks: Findings from the national study of Americans’ reactions to September 11. JAMA, 288(5), 581–588. doi: 10.1001/jama.288.5.581 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schuster, M. A., Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Collins, R. L., Marshall, G. N., Elliott, M. N., … Berry, S. H. (2001). A national survey of stress reactions after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. New England Journal of Medicine, 345(20), 1507–1512. doi: 10.1056/NEJM200111153452024 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Shoshani, A. & Slone, M. (2008). The drama of media coverage of terrorism: Emotional and attitudinal impact on the audience. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 31(7), 627–640. doi: 10.1080/10576100802144064 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Slater, M. D. (2007). Reinforcing spirals: The mutual influence of media selectivity and media effects and their impact on individual behavior and social identity. Communication Theory, 17(3), 281–303. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2007.00296.x First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Soroka, S. N. (2012). The gatekeeping function: Distributions of information in media and the real world. The Journal of Politics, 74(2), 514–528. doi: 10.1017/s002238161100171x First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Strömback, J. & Shehata, A. (2010). Media malaise or a virtuous circle? Exploring the causal relationships between news media exposure, political news attention and political interest. European Journal of Political Research, 49(5), 575–597. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6765.2009.01913.x First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Topp, C. W., Østergaard, S. D., Søndergaard, S. & Bech, P. (2015). The WHO-5 well-being index: A systematic review of the literature. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 84(3), 167–176. doi: 10.1159/000376585 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Tuchman, G. (1972). Objectivity as strategic ritual: An examination of newsmen’s notions of objectivity. American Journal of Sociology, 77(4), 660–679. doi: 10.1086/225193 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Van Praag, P. & Brants, K. (2014). Media, macht en politiek: De verkiezingscampagne van 2012 [Media, power and politics: The election campaign of 2012]. Diemen, The Netherlands: AMB. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar

  • Vander Zee, K. I., Sanderman, R., Heyink, J. W. & de Haes, H. (1996). Psychometric qualities of the RAND 36-item health survey 1.0: A multidimensional measure of general health status. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 3(2), 104–122. doi: 10.1207/s15327558ijbm0302_2 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ware, J. E. & Sherbourne, C. D. (1992). The MOS 36-item short-form health survey (SF-36): I conceptual framework and item selection. Medical Care, 30(6), 473–483. doi: 10.1037/t06708-000 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Woodstock, L. (2014). The news-democracy narrative and the unexpected benefits of limited news consumption: The case of news resisters. Journalism, 15(7), 834–849. doi: 10.1177/1464884913504260 First citation in articleCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Zillmann, D. (1991). Television viewing and physiological arousal. In J. BryantD. ZillmannEds., Responding to the screen: Reception and reaction processes (pp. 103–133). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. First citation in articleGoogle Scholar