I thought I’d cover this week’s topic, “Where is there unbiased news,” in two posts. This one is about where Americans actually get their news and which sources they trust. Later I’ll outline a few key concepts about the rapidly growing alternative sources of news and link to some criticisms of the news media that I think are better than the “they’re too right-wing/left-wing” stuff you usually see.
WHAT DO PEOPLE WATCH/READ —
Every year, the Pew Research Center does a survey to find out where Americans get their news. Here’s the latest study’s top-line results.
This confirms the obvious: TV and newspapers are hemorrhaging viewers, while use of the Internet is climbing fast. However, traditional news sources still are heavily used: Two thirds of Americans still say they get most of their news from the TV, and one-third still rely on newspapers.
Duh. Yet, these aggregated numbers hide some important facts and trends.
- Young and educated people are switching to the Internet and away from TV and newspapers in droves, while the elderly and less educated still rely heavily on TV.
- Two-thirds of people under 30 say they the Internet is their main source of news, while almost 80% of people over 65 say TV is.
- College graduates and people who make over $75,000 a year are more likely to use the Internet than less-educated, lower-income folk.
- In other words, the people who vote are switching to the Internet, except the elderly, who rely heavily on traditional sources (TV and newspapers).
[UPDATE: What about specific websites? Here are the 15 most used news websites. All but two are the websites of mainstreeam media organizations; e.g., CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Yahoo News, etc. The other two are the very liberal Huffington Post and the very conservative Drudge Report. The same group’s list of most popular “political news” websites is where the blogs come out. By my count, 4 are liberal, 8 are conservative, and 3 are more straightforward news.
But, notice the differences in sheer size between the giants and the upstarts. The #15 “news” website gets more hits per month than 13 of the top 15 “political news” sites.]
WHO DO WE TRUST —
Another poll asked which (television only) news sources Americans trust, and they broke it down by political affiliation. — Conservative, Liberal, and moderate The results showtwo disturbing facts.
- Many Americans distrust TV news, whether it’s the networks, the cable networks, or PBS
- But, there is a huge divide between conservatives and liberals: Basically, liberals trust all news sources except Fox, while conservatives trust only Fox. A year ago, Fox was the most trusted network overall, but since then moderates and liberals have abandoned it in droves.
- I agree with this commentator who said it’s hard to overstate the importance to our politics of this partisan split.
Next post: Discussion questions + analyses of our changing news media.