Local news ecosystems are more complex than is commonly understood. The digital transformation of news is causing us to mix and match content with media in new ways. Mobile media, for example, are becoming popular for “out and about news,” like restaurant tips or weather reports. The web, accessed by desktop, is seen as especially good for education news and local business news. Local TV is popular for weather, breaking news and traffic. Newspapers are best for overall civic news, especially government news.
The study detailing these findings was a partnership between the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Internet & American Life Project in partnership with Knight Foundation.
Almost half of us, the survey said, don’t have favorite news sources. We don’t turn to particular “packages” of news. What’s more, we are no longer hooked on “appointment news.” There’s no need to wake up for the paper at 6 a.m. or sit down to the television newscast at 6 p.m. All that news lives in cyberspace. We send each other the news, through social and mobile media. Some 41 percent of us are creating our own news flows by contributing stories or data of our own.
Most of us now get news from three or more sources. Increasingly, we consume news a la carte — picking the correct vessel for each type of news, as one would choose a bowl for soup at a buffet. We do not yet fully understand the complexity of these a-la-carte flows of local data, events, issues and ideas, nor why they are different across generations.
As study co-author Tom Rosenstiel puts it: “Research in the past about how people get information about their communities tended to focus on a single question: ‘Where do you go most often to get local news?’ This research asked about 16 different local topics and found a much more complex ecosystem in which people rely on different platforms for different topics. It turns out that each piece of the local information system has special roles to play.”
For those concerned about the future of self-government, some of the findings are worrisome. The newspaper comes out on top for local government news. But not that many people actually care about local government. (Just look at local election turnout). So most people — 69 percent — don’t think the death of the newspaper would matter. Yet without government news, we can’t mind our own civic store — and that’s the reason you hear about increasing numbers of scandals.
This article originally appeared on Knight Blog.
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