In Exploring the Impact of Modality on Perceptions of Credibility for Online News Stories, Spiro Kiousis argues that “a distinction needs to be made between the availability of multimedia content and the extent to which people actually use it” in order to properly understand “how perceptions of online news credibility are formed.” (p. 348).
Kiousis explains that online journalists face many challenges to credibility, including the “unlimited news hole and increased speed with which information is collected and disseminated online” that “creates an environment where the likelihood of errors and inaccuracies in stories is compounded.” (p. 348). Online journalism also lacks staff, resources, and can be prone to source ambiguity. (p. 349). Kiousis cites literature that focuses on source, “variations in communicator qualities” which “are thought to shape how people judge media messages,” and medium credibility, “variations in the qualities of channels themselves” that “are thought to impact such evaluations.” (p. 349). He also wants to look at modality, generally defined as “the use of text, graphics, sound, and video on a single communication platform.” (p. 350). Kiousis defined two questions: “will greater use of multimedia content in online news stories lead to high levels of perceived source credibility?” and “will greater use of multimedia content in online news stories lead to higher levels of perceived message credibility?” (p. 351). He focuses on the difference between availability of multimedia content and the degree to which people actually use the content. Kiousis found that “the availability of multimedia elements in online news stories had little bearing on credibility perceptions.” (p. 353). Those who actually used multimedia features, however, thought that the source was more credible.
Kiousis’ findings make intuitive sense—one would expect to gain more from media from actually interacting with it, as opposed to it simply being present. However, he only tested participants with one story: China hosting the Olympics. Is this a pressing enough issue for people to truly care about credibility? Would there be any consequences to an individual had they read this information or not? It would be interesting to use Kiousis’ experiment as a framework with other situations, to see if the personal impact of a story would make any difference on the effectiveness of modality.