How news can drive our conversations

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

News stories have a measurable impact on Americans taking to Twitter to talk about policy issues, according to a study published today in Science. Researchers found people — regardless of their gender or political affiliation — discussed race, immigration and other topics more often after stories were published than if news outlets weren't covering the issues.

The bottom line: If a few small outlets can have an effect on the national conversation as the study suggests, study author Gary King says bad actors may also be able to have a big impact. "And so we all have this responsibility to make some kinds of decisions about the entire ecosystem since it seems to be highly influential," according to King, who's a social scientist at Harvard University.

Be smart: This isn't about the power of fake news but of how media can be used for propaganda. "Most people are missing the fact that propagandists have long followed the rule that they should always tell the truth. The reason is that if they say something false and get found out they lose credibility. A much more effective propaganda strategy is to tell the truth but to amplify the arguments you like," King tells Axios.