How People Learn About Their Local Community

Sep 26, 2011

Contrary to much of the conventional understanding of how people learn about their communities, Americans turn to a wide range of platforms to get local news and information, and where they turn varies considerably depending on the subject matter and their age, according to a survey 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 that asks about local information in a new way. Most Americans, including more tech-savvy adults under age 40, also use a blend of both new and traditional sources to get their information.

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 survey echoes longstanding research that more Americans report watching local TV news than any other source—which has led to widely held idea that people go there for most of their community news and information. But it also finds that Americans tend to rely on the medium for just a few topics—mainly weather, breaking news, and to a lesser degree, traffic. These are the most widely followed local subjects. Yet consumers rely on other sources for most other local topics. Younger adults, moreover, rely on local television less, a fact that suggests more vulnerability for the medium in the future.

Read the full report, How People Learn About Their Local Community, on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site. 

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