The familiarity paradox: Why has digital sourcing not democratized the news?

Aviv Barnoy, Zvi Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article presents for the first time longitudinal evidence according to which the role of digital news sources has grown dramatically since 2006. The study includes reconstructions of 1,594 news items, authored by a representative sample of Israeli news reporters, and details regarding each item’s sources (n = 5,647). We found that digital sourcing did not open the gates for alternative voices. Moreover, digital sources are verified less than non-digital ones and are mentioned less often in final publications. However, the lower epistemic standards in treating digital sources were explained in a series of follow-up interviews, not due to their elevated trust, but rather due to the traceable footprints of digital sources that can protect journalists against future attacks, thus making these sources reliable. In addition, reporters continue to adhere to elite sources due to the familiarity paradox we found: while in principle reporters understand the ethical value of alternative sources, in practice they dismiss them, as they consider them riskier and less reliable due to their unfamiliarity. This may suggest that until the familiarity paradox is resolved, one cannot expect new technology to democratize the mix of news sources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1084-1103
Number of pages20
JournalDigital Journalism
Issue number6
Early online date23 Jul 2021
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • digital sources
  • elite sources
  • longitudinal study
  • newsmaking
  • reconstruction interviews
  • social epistemology
  • sourcing technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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