The news ecosystem is more nuanced than you might think.
Although most Americans rely on television for their weather, traffic, and breaking news, newspapers remain a vital source for a variety of other topics, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project.
, produced in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, examined how Americans learn about 16 local issues.
“Overall, the picture revealed by the data is that of a richer and more nuanced ecosystem of community news and information than researchers have previously identified,” the study said
Newspapers (both in print and online) are a top source in numerous categories, including community events, crime, taxes, local government, arts and culture, social services, and zoning and development.
Meanwhile, respondents turned to television for their weather and breaking news; TV tied with radio as the top source for traffic; it also tied with newspapers as the most-popular source for local political news.
The Internet was a top source for information about restaurants and local businesses. It tied with newspapers for news about housing, schools, and jobs.
A different picture emerges when you break down the survey respondents by age. For adults under 40, the Web is the first source for 11 of the top 16 topics, the study found. It is a close second on four others. Among respondents 40 and older, newspapers are the more visited source.
The study also noted that the Internet is the first- or second-most-relied-upon source for 15 of the 16 categories among 79 percent of Americans who are online.
For the study, Pew surveyed 2,251 Americans age 18 and older in January. Last week, Pew released a study indicating that negative opinion about news organizations
is at an all-time high.
Other key findings, according to Pew:
• The most-popular local topics are weather (89 percent), breaking news (80 percent), local politics (67 percent), and crime (66 percent).
• The least popular are zoning and development information (30 percent), local social services (35 percent), job openings (39 percent), and local government activities (42 percent).
• 64 percent tap at least three media sources every week for local news; 15 percent rely on at least six weekly.
• 45 percent say they do not have a favorite local news source.
• 47 percent use mobile devices to get local news and information, and it is particularly popular for “out and about” categories such as restaurants.
• 41 percent can be considered “local news participators” because they contribute their own information via social media and other sources, add to online conversations, and directly contribute articles about the community.
• 17 percent say they get local information on social networking sites like Facebook at least monthly.
• 55 percent get local news and information via word of mouth at least once a week. Word of mouth is particularly likely to be cited by younger residents as one of their top platforms for community events. Adults age 40 and older are more likely to prefer word of mouth as a source for local politics, local government activity, housing and real estate, zoning, and social services.
Among the study’s most interesting and disconcerting findings is that 69 percent said that if their local newspaper no longer existed, it would not
have a major impact on their ability to keep up with information and news about their community.
Where do they think most of the news about their local community originates?