PurposeThis study examines a controversial issue (biotechnology) and how news disputes about misinformation related to the issue impacts individuals' attitudes toward a biotechnology company and their trust in the media source.Design/methodology/approachThis study conducts a 2 (risk: low vs. high) x 2 (pre-existing attitude: anti gene-editing technology vs. pro gene-editing technology) x 2 (dispute message: absent vs. present) x 2 (media source: Buzzfeed vs NYT) factorial online experiment using a Qualtrics panel (N = 1,080) to examine the impact on individuals' attitudes toward a biotechnology company and trust in the media source.FindingsResults indicate that dispute messages enhance attitudes toward the company but decrease trust in media sources. Interaction effects between pre-existing attitude and the dispute message, along with perceived risk and the dispute message, illustrate stark differences in how individuals with favorable vs. unfavorable pre-existing attitudes assessed the company after viewing the dispute message.Originality/valueThis study applies arguments from extant literature about prebunking and debunking misinformation. Specifically, this study investigates how dispute messages, a form of debunking through source derogation, actually impact individuals' perceptions of media credibility and/or their attitudes about the content they are reading. The study findings also reveal new insights regarding the interaction between pre-existing attitudes and perceived risk, as well as how dispute messages interact with each of the aforementioned factors.

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