Conceptualizing sources in online news



This study attempts a new conceptualization of communication ‘sources’ by proposing a typology of sources that would apply not only to traditional media but also to new online media. Ontological rationale for the distinctions in the typology is supplemented by psychological evidence via an experiment that investigated the effects of different types of source attributions upon receivers' perception of online news content. Participants (N=48) in a 4-condition, between-participants experiment read 6 identical news stories each through an online service. Participants were told that the stories were selected by 1 of 4 sources: news editors, the computer terminal on which they were accessing the stories, other audience members (or users) of the online news service, or (using a pseudo-selection task) the individual user (self). After reading each online news story, all participants filled out a paper-and-pencil questionnaire indicating their perceptions of the story they had just read. In confirmation of the distinctions made in the typology, attribution of identical content to 4 different types of online sources was associated with significant variation in news story perception. Theoretical implications of the results as well as the typology are discussed.