By the Numbers: How Black Americans get news

Data from Pew Research is vital for PR pros. 

How Black Americans get news

The traditional role of a PR professional is to secure earned media for our clients, usually through news outlets. But knowing our target audiences, as well as where they get their news, is a vital part of the role. This isn’t a one-size-fits all proposition. 

Perhaps no demographic group in the United States has as complex a relationship with the news media as Black Americans. For centuries, the media – like most institutions in the country – has maligned, misinterpreted or ignored the Black community. This has instilled a deep sense of mistrust of the traditional media among many Black people, which continues to have repercussions to this day. 

Pew Research has shed light on some of the ways Black people interact with the news media which is vital information for any PR professional seeking to connect with this demographic.  



Keep in mind as you read this that these are only preferences. Black Americans are not a monolith: they range from African Americans who have lived in this country for hundreds of years to new immigrants; they live in big cities and deeply rural areas; and they cut across every economic group. This data is a starting point to be used to drill down to your specific audience segment. 

A preference for TV and social media news 

More Black Americans than any other group (38%) prefer to get their news from television sources at least some of the time, and 76% get their news from TV at least some of the time. That last figure is 14 points higher than white and Hispanic audiences and a full 24 points over Asian audiences, according to Pew Research.  

This demographic also enjoys getting news from social media, most notably YouTube (41%), Facebook (36%), Instagram (27%) and TikTok (22%), which they use to consume news at higher rates than other groups. 

This isn’t to say that they aren’t also receiving news via print, radio and websites, merely that the group as a whole has a preference for getting their news from visual and virtual sources – which could make your targeting easier.  

A mistrust in how Black people are covered 

Sixty-three percent of Black people surveyed by Pew said they feel the coverage of Black Americans is often more negative than coverage of other groups. Trust is a fragile thing, and according to Pew’s research, there is no form of news media in the United States is very trusted by a majority of Black people. Local news outlets were at the highest level of trust, with 48% of Black people placing a great deal or a fair amount of trust in these news sources. National media saw trust levels at 44%. 

Black media, with its roots reaching back to times when Black people were denied a voice in the press, is also still a present, vital voice today. Twenty-four percent of Black Americans turn to these news sources often or extremely often, while 40% do sometimes. This offers a unique opportunity to speak directly and solely to the Black community, and should be considered by PR practitioners. 

The role of newsrooms 

Black people are sorely underrepresented in newsrooms. Even today, only 6% of journalists who report the news are Black, even though 13.6% of the country identifies as Black. And identity matters to the Black community: 68% of respondents said it’s extremely, very or somewhat important that news about race and racial equity should come from Black reporters.  

As a PR professional, finding the right reporter to help tell the story is a key part of any placement. But that can be easier said than done when it comes to finding Black reporters to help share stories. 

Looking at all of these numbers, PR pros seeking to reach the Black community should consider finding a Black reporter who works for a local TV station or Black media outlet. This combination might earn the most trust and buy-in from this audience.  

In the end, it all comes down to listening, understanding their concerns of the demographic and matching the right media outlet and personality to the right story. 

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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