The Salience of Fakeness: Experimental Evidence on Readers’ Distinction between Mainstream Media Content and Altered News Stories

© Media Watch 11 (3) 386-400, 2020 
ISSN 0976-0911 | e-ISSN 2249-8818 
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2020/v11i3/202927 


The Salience of Fakeness: Experimental Evidence on Readers’
Distinction between Mainstream Media Content and Altered News Stories


Theodora A. Maniou, Venetia Papa, and Philemon Bantimaroudis 

University of Cyprus, Cyprus 



This experiment was designed to explore people’s critical, differentiating capacity between actual news and content that looks like news. Four groups of post-millennials read four versions of a news story. While the first condition included a real news story derived from a mainstream medium, the other three conditions tested three attributes of fakeness, namely an exaggerated, satirical, and popularised frame of disinformation. Although readers differentiated between satire and the actual news story, no significant differences were observed between exaggerated and simplified versions of news and the actual news story. Additional intervening variables were scrutinized, showing a connection between the salience of a story and its perceptions of fakeness.


Keywords: Salience, fake news, agenda-setting, disinformation, post-millennials




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Theodora A. Maniou (Ph.D.) is a Lecturer in Journalism, at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cyprus. Her area of specialization focuses on new forms of journalism, broadcast journalism in television and multimedia journalism. Prior to her current appointment, she worked as a journalist for fifteen years and is a member of the International Federation of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists and the Journalistic Union of Macedonia-Thrace (Greece).

Venetia Papa (Ph.D.) is a Lecturer in Journalism and Media Studies, at the Department of Social & Political Sciences, University of Cyprus. Her current research interests lie in the fields of new and alternative media, internet politics, media literacy, online communities, and social movements. She is currently the coordinator of the research lab DAT-ACT at the University of Cyprus working on the emerging big data ecology through innovative and advanced methodological tools. She is the co-author of the book Mobilisations Numeriques: Politiques du conflit et technologies médiatiques (Les Presses des Mines, 2017).  

Philemon Bantimaroudis (Ph.D.) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cyprus.  Prior to his current appointment, he was a Professor in the Department of Cultural Technology and Communication at the University of the Aegean (Greece).  His primary research interests are focused on media theory with secondary applications in culture and politics.