01/04/2012 - Americans still count on local television to get news about their area. But now they use several platforms for that information, and which one they choose depends on the subject matter and their age, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Internet & American Life Project.
The survey, produced in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found that most Americans, including more tech-savvy adults under age 40, also use a mixture of new and traditional sources to get their information. It indicated as well a more nuanced attitude toward community news and information than researchers previously identified.
The data showed that 64 percent of American adults use at least three types of media every week to get news and information about their local communities, and that 15 percent rely on at least six kinds of media weekly.
The survey echoed long-standing research findings that more Americans report watching local television news than any other source, but it found that Americans tend to rely on it for only a few topics: mainly weather and breaking news, and, to a lesser degree, traffic. Younger adults rely on local television less, suggesting more vulnerability for the medium in the future.
In another finding, 69 percent of Americans said if their local newspaper no longer existed, it would not significantly affect their ability to keep up with information and news about their communities. At the same time, the report said “newspapers play a much bigger role in people’s lives than many may realize. Newspapers (both the print and online versions, though primarily print) rank first or tie for first as the source people rely on most for 11 of the 16 different kinds of local information asked about—more topics than any other media source.”
For adults generally, the Internet is a main source for information about restaurants and other local businesses, and it was tied with newspapers as a top source for material about housing, jobs and schools—all areas that place a special value on consumer input. For the 79 percent of Americans who are online, the Internet is the first or second most-relied-upon source for 15 of the 16 local topics examined. For adults under 40, the Web is first for 11 of the top 16 topics and a close second on four others.
The survey also found both citizen-based information sources and old forms of media remain vital. Print newsletters, online listservs and word of mouth were identified as important means by which people learn in particular about community events and local schools.
For more on the survey, go to www.pewinternet.org.