How people who don’t work in news consume their news
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were 42,280 reporters and correspondents working in the United States in 2014. That number includes people who report for newspapers, news magazines, radio, and television, but excludes broadcast news analysts. (They have their own category.)
Every so often, I like to look at the visualizations that accompany this data. It’s not surprising that the states with the largest number of journalists generally correspond with the states with the biggest populations. California has 4,310. New York, 3,720. Florida, 2,400. Texas, 2,130.
Where it becomes more interesting is at the metro level. New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles housed almost one out of every five reporting jobs in 2014. Over the past decade — outside of those three cities — journalism jobs have shrunk by about 25 percent, The Washington Post reported in April.
This is why I started interviewing people who didn’t work in news and who lived outside of the three cities listed above about how they got their news. I was curious if they still relied on local news sources, or whether they preferred national publications. I wanted to know how many of them changed their habits as their local publications changed, and I wanted to know if my own media habits were skewed by working in journalism in Washington, D.C. (Spoiler alert: they were.)
I’ve been interviewing people on and off for the past year, and thought I would share some of the more interesting responses this week. I’m also curious to hear about your habits. We’ve already talked about whether we check the news on vacation and what our earliest news memories are - now it’s time for consumption. How do you get your news? A better question, since you likely work in news if you’re reading this: how do five people outside of your job and personal circles get their news? What don’t they like about the news? And what can we learn from how they consume?
How do you get your news?
Albert Lee, works for the city of Philadelphia: “KYW 1060 AM. It was my favorite radio station growing up because I loved hearing how schools were closed due to snow! I’m also a huge fan of getting my daily dose of happenings through my Facebook feed.”
DeVonna Johnson, marketing analyst, Chicago: “I get most of my news from social media and my RSS feed (Feedly). Between Tumblr and Twitter, I’m always made aware of current events very soon after they take place. I subscribe to news sites such as NPR (my fave) in my RSS feed, so they keep me 'in the know' as well.”
John Hart, Kansas City, Missouri: “I surf Twitter in the morning while eating breakfast, listen to NPR on my way to work, and read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal online during lunches. And if some world event or story is really interesting me, I will hunt down a foreign newspaper's website and read their articles and just use the Google Translate option. I just don’t watch news on the TV — that seems to be the media’s chosen medium for scare tactics.”
Tanja Hollander, photographer in Maine: “It depends on what kind of news it is — almost all of it is online. My general everyday news comes from links on Facebook or Twitter. And NPR (on the radio) at the end of the day. For breaking news, it’s 100 percent Twitter – I have lists of journalists by topic that I follow as my go to sources. I find stories on Twitter usually come out two to three days before they do on Facebook or anywhere else. Then I usually keep up with Al Jazeera America and BBC. For local news, it’s MPBN (radio) and Bangor Daily News online. Regional news, The Boston Globe online. Art news, artnet.com; for tech it’s usually Twitter. Oh and I’m enjoying @nowthisnews on Instagram. (I read/skim the paper when I’m at my parents' house.)”
F. Scott Stinner, PhD student, Philadelphia: “I read what’s trending on Facebook and watch the Daily Show during my lunch break. When driving, I listen to KYW 1060 to catch up on more general and local news. If I want to look up a national news story online, I look up one of my hometown news channels, 69 from Allentown, Pennsylvania or 16 from Scranton. Most of it is just copy-pasted from AP reports, but it’s quickly updated and at least mostly impartial. And I don’t really watch TV news. My schedule is too irregular. I have to catch up when I can.”
Christine Eriksen, Philadelphia: “I like my news from the minority, and I hate watching the news on TV, so I get my news exclusively on the Internet. Mostly from The Root, Angry Asian Man and Code Switch. Shaun King's Twitter feed is my must read in the mornings.”
Nick Quaranto, developer in Buffalo, New York: “It depends. Twitter: Instant, breaking news for local to national stuff. I follow way too many people (and robots). Hacker News: Tech industry garbage. I’ve set my 'topcolor' (the background color of the site’s header) to be magic pink as a reminder to not take anything seriously on the site. NYT: I feed the most popular articles from the Times into Pocket via IFTTT. There’s just too many to read and I usually delete most of them. NPR: Every so often I’ll catch Morning Edition or some other shows on WBFO as we’re out driving. It’s not my best source, but better than anything else on the radio. (Fun fact I’m sure you’ll love: Terry Gross started her radio career here at WBFO!) PNAS: My brother’s a second year med student, and he recently tuned me into the fantastic papers the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publishes nearly every day. Most of it is way over my head, but every so often there’s nuggets to learn like chimpanzees plan their brunch based on the fruits available. I also use IFTTT and Pocket to follow these articles. The Public: A weekly that just started up here in Buffalo. Fantastic design and interesting stories every week so far.”
Andy Schimpf, chemist, Wisconsin: “When I was younger, I read multiple newspapers, as well as most of the standard news weekly magazines (such as Time, U.S. News and World Report, etc.). Now that I am older (and have three children to help raise), I find it impossible to be able to timely consume all that content. So, I now consume in small snacks. I don’t want to say that I take all of my news as just headline scanning, or sound-bite listening. I mean that during the day, when I have a few minutes, I can read an article of interest or listen to a program which appeals to me. I haven’t watched local news (as well as national network) for years; I find that I can acquire information at my own pace online. I listen to NPR when I’m driving, so I catch Morning Edition on the way to work, and All Things Considered and Marketplace on the way home. This takes me to social media, primarily Twitter. I don’t use Twitter as my news source; I use it as a way to have a broader look at more subjects than just what I get in a 30 minute TV news broadcast, for example. Also, following the content producers helps me feel engaged with the content. It’s a gateway that allows me to take in as much or little information that I want, or can handle at the time. Not only do I enjoy that consumption method, I enjoy sharing what I have found as well. Nothing makes me feel better when I can turn someone on to something I found really interesting.”
What do you dislike about the news?
Lynsey Smith, teacher and cheerleading coach, Portland, Oregon: “I hate how polarizing it can be and how partisan it can be. I also hate how some outlets ‘dumb down’ their coverage. I don’t want or need a watered-down version of what’s happening in the world. I think things like that contribute to feelings of apathy and disconnect, which are no good.”
Dan Angelucci, videographer, Philadelphia: “I tried to make a parody Web series that was like if puppets were running a cable news network, and one of the reasons that we couldn’t really get it to work after eight or so episodes was that we could never really bring ourselves to watch cable news. There’s nothing inherently bad about 24 hour news networks. There’s kind of a canard that 'cable news is bad because there isn’t enough news for 24 hours,' but that’s not really true at all. There’s so much news out there, and it’s not being covered. I imagine most people, myself included, feel they’re very under-informed about the news, and there’s always something going on that we could learn more about. The problem is that cable news absolutely focuses on the wrong things. Not to keep making this about a medium that I don’t even work in, but public radio doesn’t seem to have any problem filling 24 hours with genuine news content.”
Oliver Zhu, programmer and budding neuroscientist, Cupertino, California: “I actually happen to be reading Brooke Gladstone’s "The Influencing Machine" at the moment, and I’m tempted to just defer to Brooke on this question, since there are so many frustrating things about the media. Really shitty science journalism in mainstream media is definitely up there. Narrative bias, which insists that news stories have to fit some narrative structure with good guys and bad guys and causes and effects, is another thing that really bothers me.”
Vicky Parysek, teacher, Berlin, Germany: “Sensationalist reporting and the clamoring of news agencies to be the first to break the story – whether or not they have all the facts.”
Ellen Chisa, tech, Boston: “It feels transient. Something happens, I get an update, and then it’s gone. I feel like I almost never understand the resolution – it’s just like 'oh it’s news!' followed by a slow fade to nothing.”
Robyn Kramer, retired radiologist technologist (and my mom,) South Jersey: “I hate the repetitive format… The weather is not breaking news..it’s December..it’s cold..it snows.. This is not news. They lose me when the repeat the same things over and over.. I glaze over and don’t hear them.”