The “New Public” and the “Good Ol’ Press”: Evaluating Online News Sources During the 2013 Polio Outbreak in Israel

Anat Gesser-Edelsburg*, Nathan Walter, Yaffa Shir-Raz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current research focuses on the 2013 polio outbreak in Israel as a case study to analyze the sources of information used in new media platforms, examining whether the new media have changed the ways in which we communicate about health issues. Specifically, we tracked and coded polio-related references on Hebrew news websites, blogs, forums, and Facebook posts. Overall, 24,388 polio-related references constituted our sampling frame. The findings suggest that there is a moderate-level correlation between the platform and the type of sources chosen by users. Beyond the differences between various platforms, we found that online information platforms rely not only on popular or pseudoscientific sources, but also on high-quality information. In fact, the analysis indicates that online news websites, forums, blogs, and Facebook posts create a unique blend of information, including scientific literature, medical professionals, and government representatives, as well as pseudoscientific research. These findings suggest a more optimistic view of the Internet as a source for health-related information in times of crises. Although the fact that members of the public are exposed to scientific sources does not indicate to what degree this affects their actual decision making. Exposure to a wider variety of sources may enhance health literacy, resulting in a better understanding of information needed to make informed decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Communication
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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