Every day people encounter more information than they can possibly use. Friends, colleagues, books, newspapers, television, and Web sites are just a few of the resources and media contributing to the flow of information. But all information is not necessarily of equal value. In many cases, certain information appears to be "better," or "more trustworthy" than other information. The challenge that most people then face is to judge which information is the more credible (Hilligoss & Rieh, 2008). Credibility is defined as "judgments made by a perceiver (e.g., a message recipient) concerning the believability of a communicator" (O'Keefe, 1990, pp. 130-131). But others believe that this definition should also include institutions as well as persons as communicators (Gass & Seiter, 2007). This concept of credibility has been dominant for the past 2,500 years. Aristotle advanced ethos, the Greek expression for source credibility, as one of the three major ways by which speakers persuade audience members-ethos, logos, and pathos. (Griffin, 2009; Infante, Rancer, & Womack, 1997).

However, studies of the credibility of a medium arose from concerns in the newspaper industry, first about the rising number of people turning to radio for news, then about the number relying on television. But the rise of the Internet has led to host of recent credibility studies comparing traditional sources with this emerging medium (Johnson & Kaye, 2004). In sum, since the late 1990s, when the Internet began providing new information interaction environments that allowed users to seek for information and communicate with others in ways never before possible, the concept of credibility has received considerable attention (Hilligoss & Rieh, 2008).

In recent decades, the Internet has attracted many people and has penetrated into people's daily lives. The Internet has changed information sharing; it is now much faster, easier and less expensive (Liu, 2003). However many people rely on online media for information, it is still not certain if online media meet people's expectations. Despite the fact that there is a serious concern about misinformation on the Internet, online audiences are increasing (Hilligoss & Rieh, 2008). If people are using online media, they must place some reliance on it. Due to the nature of the Internet, such as the anonymity of sender location, role of the sender, and even identity of the sender, few barriers stop people from publishing on it. These matters often lead to concerns about fabricated or false quotation and other type of counterfeit information (Fogg, 2003).

The explosive growth of the Internet since the 1980s has been far faster than the growth of any other communications medium, faster than the spread of the telephone, radio, television, or even cellular telephones (Fogg et al., 2001). This growth has been possible largely because of the open processes that have supported the development of Internet technologies and the administration of Internet resources. Penetration of and growing reliance on the Internet also has motivated researchers to study the credibility of online news. Internet news is abundant and easily available nowadays, but its credibility is still very low. However, various studies in different countries have reported different results about Internet credibility (Lu & Andrews, 2006).

When a new medium arises it affects existing media (Liu, 2003). Generally, traditional mass media have accepted the Internet and almost all forms of traditional media (such as newspapers, radio, and television) have been extended into this new field. Differences in the credibility of existing and new media is important to investigate because public distrust can lead to diminished freedom of press and also can threaten the economic health of media industries (Gaziano, 1988).

According to Aristotle, although the speaker must appear credible, it is not enough for a speaker merely to present a plausible speech (Griffin, 2009). While audience members seek information for various purposes, such as for comfort, empowerment, learning, and knowledge to act, not all information is useful and credible. Audiences filter out useless information and retain only that which appears to be useful and believable. Credibility is one of the criteria used to filter out unbelievable information (Wathen & Burkell, 2002).

The academic investigation of credibility dates back to the 1950s. Mainly, credibility research took place in the fields of psychology and communication and allied disciplines (Liu, 2003; Rieh & Danielson, 2007). Credibility investigation has been an important part of mass communication studies since the earliest days of the field (Kiouis, 2001). The results of this research are clear: First, the level of public satisfaction with the mass media has decreased; second, the level of newspaper circulation has fallen, especially with regard to women, minorities, and younger readers (Beaudoin & Thorson, 2002); and finally, public inability or unwillingness to believe the news media severely hampers the media's ability to inform the public, to monitor leaders and to govern (Gaziano, 1988).

Although earlier study has not distinguished various types of credibility, for those who come in contact daily with the Internet, it is necessary to identify different types of credibility- especially when considering how computing systems differentially affect them. Therefore Fogg et al. (2001) identified four categories of credibility: Presumed credibility explains how much the perceiver believes someone or something. This kind of credibility arises from general assumptions in the perceiver's mind. For example, people view their friends as credible if they suppose their friends tell the truth. Reputed credibility arises from what third parties have reported. Those sources possess official titles or have earned prizes that have a high public reputation. They tend to make specific sources appear more credible. In regard to this kind of credibility stated by Fogg et al. (2001), Hovland et al. (1953) also note that "approval of statement by highly respected person or organizations may have much the same positive effect as if they originate it" (p. 19). Surface credibility is based on simple inspection, for example, judging a book by its cover, visual design of a Web site, and people's dress and language. Finally, experienced credibility is based on a person's firsthand experience with certain people or other sources over time (Fogg et al., 2001). A study on the perception of information on the Web conducted by Liu (2003) shows that two other types of source credibility (veri?able credibility, and cost-effect credibility) also play important roles in shaping credibility perception.

Source credibility and medium/channel credibility are two main fields within the concept of credibility that recently have been investigated (Kiouis, 2001; Mingxin, 2006). Kiouis (2001) states that, although the two terms obviously overlap, it is important to note that some empirical work has indicated that it is meaningful to distinguish between them.

As cited by Self (1996), when Hovland and his colleagues conducted the first systematic study of media credibility, they drew a distinction between source credibility, and media credibility. As more people use the mass media as a source of information, the media must retain the credibility for what they present to audience members (Lee, 1978). Extensive attention to credibility of media channels dates back at least to the late 1930s, when newspapers were overshadowed by the greater credibility of radio news during the Second World War. During the 1950s, competition from television again provoked the industry to look at which of the various news media had greater credibility in the eyes of the public. During the 1960s, reliance on TV climbed so steadily that by 1968 television news had the confidence of twice as many people as the newspapers (Erskine, 1970; Self, 1996).

The source's role in communication effectiveness has been given many names: image, prestige, charisma, or source credibility (Berlo, Lemert & Mertz, 1970). Source credibility research examines the impact of the message it presents. Since Aristotle proposed that ethos plays a core role in persuasion (Lee, 1978), communication scholars have devoted a great deal of attention to find out which information sources were believed (Self, 1996). Source credibility research has also paid attention to the factors that make audiences more or less receptive to communicators' messages (Flanagin & Metzger, 2003). An early Socratic and Aristotelian discussion concluded that sources are credible because of three factors. First, their message's "rightness" is perceived by the audiences. Second, they know how to reveal themselves to particular audiences. And, third, they are perceived to be credible because of audience characteristics (Self, 1996).

On the other hand, media credibility research, as Johnson and Kaye (1998) assert, tends to compare the content in different media. Media credibility research, generally, has been operationalized in a variety of ways, with discussion including such concepts as media believability and trust, fairness, coverage reliability, accuracy and bias; media invasion of privacy and treatment of ordinary people; as well as coverage of specific demographic groups (Beaudoin & Thorson, 2002). Source credibility focuses on characteristics of message senders or individual speakers, such as trustworthiness and expertise (Bucy, 2003). 

The advent of the Internet as a new and widely used medium for the delivery of information raises the question of how to assess the credibility of this medium (Wathen & Burkell, 2002). Audiences now have the opportunity to get information via the Internet instead of in traditional ways. The amount of information on the Internet requires considerable cognitive effort to select only that information that is believable and credible. This problem is growing. In fact, information over the Internet tends to be free from the traditional mechanism of refereeing (Liu, 2003) or even editing. No one regularly reviews the content of documents before they are posted on the Internet. As a result, making assessment of information credibility has become primarily the responsibility of media consumers (Flanagin & Metzger, 2003)- a challenging task for most users (Liu, 2003). Interest in newspaper credibility may have reached its highest point in the late 1980s, but the media credibility issue has recently been revived with the involvement of traditional media in the Internet (Garrison, 2003; Wathen & Burkell, 2002). While some researchers, for example Lee (1978), had dropped radio and magazines from their study because they had traditionally lagged far behind in popularity, through the involvement of traditional media in the Internet they again come to the attention of mass communication researchers in the area of media credibility. 

A quick review of credibility and computing technology reflects that people have held computer-based information as highly credible. But after the penetration of the Internet by traditional media, these attitudes seem to be facing a credibility crisis (Tseng & Fogg, 1999). The Internet helps information flow and freedom, but it also introduces an increased potential for error or exploitation of information as in the past. In the new media environment some filter and control mechanisms may not be as effective. As a result of lacking such mechanisms, most of the numerous Internet information sources are not subject to factual verification, content analysis, and editorial review (Metzger et al., 2003). While discerning where information stands on scales of honest-dishonest, trustworthy-untrustworthy, sincere-insincere, skilled-unskilled, qualified-unqualified, and informed-uninformed were previously the responsibility of editorial boards, now they fall upon the shoulders of media consumers (Flanagin and Metzger, 2000; Metzger et al., 2003). 

As the receivers of news from the media, we are faced with the problem of determining which media and which sources are or are not credible on an absolute basis, as well as which are ranked as most (and least) credible. As Tseng and Fogg (1999) state, automatic high credibility attributed to "computers" or "the Internet" may soon be history. The findings of media credibility investigations have implication for media researchers. We need to further examine the credibility of perception of both new and old media. Such findings are beneficial for audiences and have broad implications as we estimate how news of traditional and online communication media would be believed and trusted. Additionally, the results can inform news companies- regardless of which media they utilize- as they determine what factors may influence audience perception of media news credibility.


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Davood Mehrabi, Muhamad Sham Shahkat Ali and Musa Abu Hassan are in the Department of Communication of University Putra Malaysia in Malaysia. They may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.