The digital era is making its mark on local news. Nearly as many Americans today say they prefer to get their local news online as say they prefer to do so through the television set, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 34,897 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 8, 2018, on the Center’s American Trends Panel and Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel. The 41% of Americans who say they prefer getting their local news via TV and the 37% who prefer it online far outpace those who prefer a printed newspaper or the radio (13% and 8%, respectively).
Here is the problem: TV stations and online sources usually get their information from newspapers. But because people are shunning print for electronic sources, revenues are drying up, which means newspapers are closing or downsizing,which in turn means less information is flowing downstream.
This study goes even one level deeper, drilling down to the individual local level via a free online, interactive tool. The interactive allows members of the public to search for, examine and download findings about the local news environments of 99 distinct areas across the United States.
Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew:
Journalists tend to be quite familiar with the the financial struggles facing their industry – it’s not much of a secret to them. As Pew Research Center has reported in past analyses, the number of people employed in U.S. newsrooms has fallen by nearly a quarter over the past decade and layoffs remain a common occurrence, particularly at city newspapers.
But the public seems largely unaware of these difficulties. In fact, 71% of the people we surveyed believe local media are doing well financially. That’s a striking disconnect. And few Americans are offering financial support: Only 14% say they’ve personally paid for local news within the past year.