Breaking news: How push notifications alter the fourth estate

Madelyn Rose Sanfilippo, Yafit Lev-Aretz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the face of media mistrust and increasing scrutiny over fake news, the fourth estate traditional power-check functions, as well as its esteem, are in jeopardy. Changes in news reporting and dissemination, including social media and new technologies have greatly reshaped the information environments of an informed electorate within American democracy. While much scholarly progress has been made in studying the socio-political impact of social media, similar critical attention has not been given to some of the technological changes in news dissemination. Research has begun to analyze attitudinal changes, as well as documented general information-saturation culture and online civility. It is not clear if these are related within the context of breaking news, raising distinct research questions, including: How have objectivity and sentiment changed in media representations over time? How have push notifications, as an increasingly popular and exemplar technological change in news dissemination, influenced these representations? This paper addresses these questions by exploring a case comparison between representations of two historically parallel breaking news stories, U.S. President Nixon firing special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973 and President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey in 2017, through computational textual analysis. While headlines and push notifications vary significantly by news providers, push notifications are similar across platforms in distinguishing characteristics such as emotionally loaded and subjective language. Both of these are defining elements of fake and deceptive news and may potentially account for some media distrust recently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalFirst Monday
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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