Public Policy

Mask Mandates, Misinformation, and Data Voids in Local News Coverage of COVID-19



Local news sources in the United States have been dwindling for years. Although newsrooms are shrinking, the American public generally trust their local news sources. Crisis events like the COVID-19 pandemic are circumstances where people are actively searching for information and some of what they will find will inevitably be misinformation given the volume of misinformation being created and the affordances of social media services that encourage viral spread. It is critical to understand if local news is spreading misinformation or acting as a cross-cutting information source. This study uses local news data from a media aggregator and mixed methods to analyze the relationship between local news and misinformation. Findings suggest that local news sources are serving as cross-cutting information sources but occasionally reinforce misinformation. We also find a worrying increase of anti-mask stories and accompanying decrease of pro-mask stories after a mask mandate is enacted.


Thumbnail image of Morrow&Compagni_Misinformation&LocalNews-2020.pdf


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