This study explores the question of how the use of satire, as embedded within the trappings of a traditional news outlet (i.e. a reputable newspaper like the Boston Globe), could influence perceptions of the respective news organization and facets of engagement with it. An online experiment (N = 366) was conducted, offering comparisons both in terms of message features (i.e. a satirical versus conventional presentation of political information) and source attribution cues (i.e. satirical content attributed to a hard news source versus attribution to a satirical outlet). Results indicate that the use of satire may present some risks for a news outlet in terms of undermining reader trust, which can impact audience engagement. However, the results also suggest that the weight of legitimacy and credibility commonly associated with a traditional news outlet can translate into a perception of its satire having a stronger influence on individuals (compared to content from a purely satirical outlet), which can in turn influence the likelihood of sharing the satirical content. Tests of indirect effects highlight the mediating roles of source trust and perceived influence in processes of influence on facets of engagement (i.e. returning to the news source and sharing its content). On the whole, the model of relationships does not appear to be moderated by political party identification.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)