Katerina Eva Matsa
As social media and technology companies face criticism for not doing enough to stem the flow of misleading information on their platforms, a sizable portion of Americans continue to turn to these sites for news. A little under half (48%) of U.S.
About two-thirds of American adults (68%) say they at least occasionally get news on social media, about the same share as at this time in 2017, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Many of these consumers, however, are skeptical of the information they see there: A majority (57%) say they expect the news they see on social media to be largely inaccurate. Still, most social media news consumers say getting news this way has made little difference in their understanding of current events, and more say it has helped than confused them (36% compared with 15%).
Mobile devices have become one of the most common ways Americans get news, outpacing desktop or laptop computers. Roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) often get news on a mobile device, 19 percentage points higher than the 39% who often get news on a desktop or laptop computer, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Publics around the world overwhelmingly agree that the news media should be unbiased in their coverage of political issues, according to a new survey of 38 countries. Yet, when asked how their news media are doing on reporting different political issues fairly, people are far more mixed in their sentiments, with many saying their media do not deliver.
Americans are relying less on television for their news. Just 50% of US adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57% a year prior in early 2016. But that audience drain varies across the three television sectors: local, network and cable. Local TV has experienced the greatest decline but still garners the largest audience of the three, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.
The local television landscape in the US has undergone major changes in recent years, as a wave of consolidations and station purchases have made some broadcast media owners considerably larger. In 2004, the five largest companies in local TV – Sinclair, Nexstar, Gray, Tegna and Tribune – owned, operated or serviced 179 full-power stations. That number grew to 378 in 2014 and to 443 in 2016. If approved by regulators, Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune would bring its total to 208, by far the largest among the media companies. As of 2016, these five companies owned an estimated 37% of all full-power local TV stations in the country, as identified in a Pew Research Center analysis of BIA Kelsey data.
During the long saga of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan – an ongoing, multilayered disaster that exposed about 100,000 residents to harmful contaminants and lead and left them even as of early 2017 advised to drink filtered or bottled water – local and regional audiences used online search engines as a way to both follow the news and understand its impact on public and personal health. A new Pew Research Center study, based on anonymized Google search data from Jan. 5, 2014, through July 2, 2016, delves into the kinds of searches that were most prevalent as a proxy for public interest, concerns and intentions.
The study also tracks the way search activity ebbed and flowed alongside real world events and their associated news coverage. The study begins in 2014, when officials switched the source of municipal drinking water from the Detroit city water system to the Flint River. The study period covers ensuing events that included bacteria-related “boil water” advisories, studies showing elevated lead levels in children’s blood and tap water samples, government-issued lead warnings, bottled-water distribution, declarations of emergency, the filing of criminal charges, a Democratic presidential candidate debate in Flint and a visit to the city by President Barack Obama.
As journalists and media practitioners gather for the annual Online News Association Conference, here are 10 key findings from recent Pew Research Center surveys and analyses that show how these rapid digital shifts are reshaping Americans’ news habits:
1) About four-in-ten Americans now often get news online.
2) Mobile is becoming a preferred device for digital news.
3) Long-form journalism has a place in today’s mobile-centric society.
4) More than half (55%) of US smartphone users get news alerts, but few get them frequently.
5) Social media, particularly Facebook, is now a common news source.
6) Overall, more digital news consumers get their news online in the process of doing other things online (55%) than specifically seek out the news (44%), though there are differences by social media platform.
7) Few Americans trust social media as a news source.
8) While many Americans get news from social media, few are heavily engaged with news.
9) In the digital news environment, the role of friends and family is prominent – and for some it’s an echo chamber.
10) Three-in-ten Americans turn to 2016 presidential candidates’ digital messages for news and information about the election – and the candidates’ social media posts outpace their websites and emails as sources of this news.
Within America’s 50 state capitol buildings, 1,592 journalists inform the public about the actions and issues of state government. Of those statehouse reporters, nearly half (741) are assigned there full time.
While that averages out to 15 full-time reporters per state, the actual number varies widely -- from a high of 53 in Texas to just two in South Dakota. The remaining 851 statehouse reporters cover the beat less than full time. Newspaper reporters constitute the largest segment of both the total statehouse news corps (38%) and the full-time group (43%).
But the data indicate that their full-time numbers have fallen considerably in recent years, raising concerns about the depth and quality of news coverage about state government. As newspapers have withdrawn reporters from statehouses, others have attempted to fill the gap. For-profit and nonprofit digital news organizations, ideological outlets and high-priced publications aimed at insiders have popped up all over the country, often staffed by veteran reporters with experience covering state government. These nontraditional outlets employ 126 full-time statehouse reporters (17% of all full-time reporters). But that does not make up for the 164 newspaper statehouse jobs lost since 2003.