This Week’s Mtg, Part I: Where Do We Get Ours News?

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.


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.,,, 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.]


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.


One response

  1. Once again, David, you’ve angled a topic to fit with current events. How do you do it? Must be witchcraft or something you picked up at Harvard.

    Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is again trying to reinvent the news wheel, with the Back to the Future approach. The Daily is an iPad app news portal that goes a long way to look like a printed magazine. Isn’t that what the Union Tribune has been doing with its ho-hum site for years.

    Well, the pundits are saying The Daily will fail ( Not for lack of money — $30 mill! But, trying to keep an old news hound on life support is cruel. The commercial ad model for the news biz seems to be on its way out. As is professional reporting, sad to say. In the social networking age, news has been democratized. We write and consume our own stories.

    I suspect News Corp is eying a more affluent audience: buyers of the overpriced iPad. More pretty flowers for their pricey walled garden. Apple is the real winner with The Daily. Apple controls advertising and customer data. Apple may not be taking its customary 30% with this deal. iPad users who bought a 200-page book on how to use their shiny new toy, deserve a pretty news source without the high IQ points.

    As a slight aside, iPad/iPhone users can’t buy ebooks from the Amazon web site, or any third-party ebook seller ( Ebooks from outside the walled garden must be purchased through the App Store. There, Apple will take 30% of every sale. I guess most ebooks will cost 30% more on the iPad/iPhone.

    Controlling content is the game. Only the players change.


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