A new study has investigated who watched the ISIS beheading videos, why, and what effect it had on them

This is the first study to explore not only what percentage of people in the general population choose to watch videos of graphic real-life violence, but also why.

In the summer of 2014, two videos were released that shocked the world. They showed the beheadings, by ISIS, of two American journalists – first, James Foley and then Steven Sotloff. Though the videos were widely discussed on TV, print and online news, most outlets did not show the full footage. However, it was not difficult to find links to the videos online.

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I reported the news in print and online. Here’s the difference.

Former NYTimes executive editor Jill Abramson dissects the big problem with internet news.

  • Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, describes what life was like for a journalist in the 1980s – a "stone age" when news was governed by the printing press schedule.
  • Today, many journalists will break stories on Twitter before writing it, eliminating nuance and increasing the chance of error.
  • Social media in particular has added a fatal speed to journalism. Errors erode public trust in the media, and allow those in power to undermine the free press.
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“It’s all going down.” Why journalism is up in flames.

News doesn't sell. That's lethal to journalism – and democracy.

  • Apart from media giants like The New York Times and The Washington Post, nearly every news outlet is laying off journalists or collapsing completely.
  • The reason? No advertiser wants to put their ad next to serious, hard-edged news. Sensational content is favored by algorithms, and that isn't just annoying. It has terrifying consequences.
  • Journalists are the watchdogs of democracy. The more local news outlets and independent media disappear, the more those in power can do as they wish. Unreported scandals will fester and damage citizens. Corruption will go unchecked.
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Loss of local newspapers is making America more politically polarized

Less local newspapers are making the populace more uninformed.

Photo credit: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Image
  • As of 2016 there are roughly 1,300 daily newspapers in the United States.
  • Only 45 percent of counties in the United States contain a daily newspaper headquarters.
  • National news is influencing local politics and make citizens vote blindly along party lines.
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Can you trust anonymous sources in journalism?

To cite an anonymous source, a media outlet must first enjoy a high level of credibility.

  • It's difficult for media outlets to stop using anonymous sources because identified past sources have been prosecuted for leaking information to reporters. Anonymity allows the sources to share information with the public with less threats of jail time and huge legal bills.
  • We have to suspend disbelief, and believe the reporters when anonymous sources are quoted, and decide whether a news outlet — such as BuzzFeed, amid its recent reporting regarding Michael Cohen — has our confidence and enjoys a high level of credibility.
  • Information naturally has more credibility, Abramson says, when it is attached to a named sourced. However, to get some crucial information to the public, there are times when anonymous sourcing is necessary.