Pew Research


A myth debunked: minorities may now be consuming more local news than whites, not less

pew-graphicThe Pew Research Center surveyed more than 3,600 news consumers in three cities last summer with a cluster of surprising results reported today.

Top of that list: Minorities — African-Americans in Macon and Hispanics in metropolitan Denver — follow local news more intently than do whites.  Moreover they were twice as likely as whites to “feel they can have a big impact on the city.”

Past surveys, including Pew’s own, have found minorities less educated, less wealthy and slightly less avid news consumers.  But those findings were for news generally rather than local matters.

Amy Mitchell, lead author of the report and director of Pew Research’s journalism division, agreed with me that the result jumped out.  “The numbers are pretty striking there,” for both interest and impact, she said in a phone interview, a much wider gap than is typical in demographic comparisons of news consumption.

My reaction was that the pattern makes sense once you think about it.  Wouldn’t black residents of an economically challenged Southern city care more about schools, policing, local politics and job opportunities than about Netanyahu’s speech or the color of the dress?

“These are the questions of day-to-day life,” Mitchell said.  “People are looking for ‘what will impact me’” and care about what local government is doing on those issues.

The report comes with the caution that while the three cities (Sioux City, Iowa, was the third) were chosen for variety, the findings cannot be projected over the whole United States.

In Macon two-thirds of the city population is black. In Bibb County, of which Macon is part, the split is about 50-50.  So  minorities are not exactly a minority there.  Macon Telegraph editor Sherrie Marshall is African American. Pew found ethnic outlets were not a significant source of news in Macon.

But the pattern repeated in Denver where Hispanics are a little less than 20 percent of the metro’s population. There, 60 percent of Hispanics said that they followed local news closely compared to 43 percent of whites.  (In Macon, the split was 70 percent of African-Americans versus 43 percent of whites).

The Pew Research study, titled Local News in a Digital Age, also echoes a report last fall from the American Press Institute.  Contrary to received wisdom about the”digital divide,”  minorities are as likely as the white population to own smart-phones and use them to locate news.  So if anything, digital transformation, particularly social media options, may be making it easier to follow the news than in the days when newspapers and local TV were the only game going.

Some other highlights of the report:

*Citizens turn up as sources in many stories.  Some of the hottest topics, but not the majority of stories, generate a good deal of discussion on Facebook and Twitter.  But in all three cities, no more than 1 percent of stories — print or digital — had citizen bylines.  So the notion that in the digital era, news has become a dialogue rather than a lecture, remains to a degree unrealized.

*Local television, as in most such surveys, turned up as the top source for local news.  However Pew’s content analysis found that the majority of newscast stories were brief anchor-read items with no additional reporting.  Weather and sports were heavily represented.  Local dailies and other text-dominant media were much more likely to cover civic matters and to initiate coverage of a given topic.

*In sampling local digital sites, the report found non-journalistic entities were often among the most popular.  County government in Macon and the sites of Congressional representatives in both Macon and Sioux City had substantial followings.  They hosted a number of discussions of civic matters, even while originating no news reports beyond press releases.  The governmental sites were also a good source of data sets.

The report also includes what it calls an “exploratory, experimental” foray into measuring how Twitter and Facebook interface with local news in the three cities.  It describes the two as “new but limited parts of the local news system.” Specifically,

Analysis of public Facebook pages of news outlets, public figures, government departments and facilities, and civic groups finds that while a number of nontraditional providers compete with large legacy outlets in popularity, the stories they are covering are in many ways the same as those in other, more traditional platforms. The analysis also suggests that user comments focus on a minority of posts and tend to peter out after the first 24 hours of a post’s life.


The more public nature of Twitter compared with Facebook allows for a different kind of analysis focused more on the organic ways in which local news providers and residents use the platform….

Overall, the analysis found little discussion of the local news stories covered most by the local news providers. Instead, conversations tended to focus on content that would not be classified as news—such as conversations between local residents. When posts did relate to news and information, they were more often national in scope than local—and most often tended to be political in nature.

During the week of stories monitored in Macon, Pew did discover a robust discussion of a local band participating in a VH-1 contest that wasn’t covered by news media..

This study picks up some of the themes of a 2010 Pew report on local news outlets in Baltimore. That study’s main finding was that legacy outlets, especially the Baltimore Sun, were the source of most original reporting.  Other publications and sites were more likely to offered summary and commentary.

This research was broader and turned the focus (as have other recent Pew Research projects) away from providers and more toward consumers — what they want and where they get it.

Pew Research describes itself now as a “fact tank” and does not advocate for particular platforms or kinds of coverage.  I nonetheless asked Mitchell what advice she would give news organizations, legacy or newer digital alternatives, looking for actionable nuggets in the report.

“The first thing we see is that local news is very important — everything from land use to what new restaurants are open,” she said.  But even the small sample also “indicated clear differences between cities.” So providers need to know the particulars of what matters most to their communities.

I would add that the finding of high local news interest hits hard at newspaper organizations and others that are continuing to thin out their staff of editors and reporters.

Plus it is doubly regrettable that progress building minority presence in newsrooms has stalled out in light of this fresh demonstration of the potential high interest coverage of serious local matters has among that growing demographic. Read more


Chart shows how minority employment at newspapers has stalled


New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet is “part of a small minority at U.S. news outlets,” Monica Anderson writes for Pew. “[I]n newspaper newsrooms, the percentage of overall staffers and supervisors who are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or multiracial has remained virtually unchanged in the past two decades.” Anderson uses data from the American Society of News Editors census to chart that stagnation:

The percentage of minority journalists in newspaper newsrooms edged up by a miserable .05 percentage points in 2012, even as absolute numbers fell by 300 positions. The decline counts as stagnation because minority journalists lost newspaper jobs at about the same rate as journalists overall. Read more


Women journalists make 17% less than men


The median salary of women journalists is 83 percent of their male counterparts’ pay, Monica Anderson reports for Pew. That’s in line with the national pay gap: “the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that median hourly earnings for all women in 2012 amount to 84% of what a man makes,” Anderson writes. Anderson’s report draws on the most recent Indiana University survey of journalists.

Ken Auletta reported Thursday that ousted New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson made a $475,000 salary in her first year in the top job. That’s 85 percent of what Auletta reports her predecessor, Bill Keller, was making that year.

Anderson gathers other stats from the annual ASNE census: At newspapers, the percentage of women has “barely budged,” she writes, and the percentage of women in supervisory positions has gone up a whopping 1 percent since 1998. Minority representation isn’t really taking off, either.

Thanks to @maryfduffy for bringing up the math on the Abramson/Keller salaries. Read more

1 Comment

Few say they heard ‘a lot’ about Heartbleed bug from news sources


Only about 1 in 5 U.S. adults said they’d heard “a lot” about the Heartbleed bug from news sources, Pew reports in a new survey. 60 percent of adults said they’d at least heard about the security flaw in a widely used encryption program, one serious enough that many Web entities urged their customers and users to change their passwords.

The story “registered roughly the same level of public awareness as the U.S.-Iran negotiations and agreement to allow monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program (in November and December 2013) and Catholic Bishops in the U.S. protesting Obama Administration policies they believe restricted religious liberty (July 2012),” Pew writes.

The report lists public awareness of some previous news stories by way of comparison:

  • 88% of Americans said they had heard “a lot” about the Newtown, Connecticut shootings in December 2012.
  • 60% of Americans said they had heard “a lot” about Pope Benedict’s announcement he would step down from the papacy in February 2013.
  • 42% of Americans said they had heard “a lot” about Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s of Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate in August 2012.

A slightly higher percentage of Internet users said they’d heard about the bug: 64 percent. Of those, about 40 percent took steps to secure their accounts, like changing their passwords.

Read more


News biz revenue has shrunk by a third since 2006


The news business had about $30 billion more revenue in 2006 than it does today, Pew finds. Advertising’s percentage of that revenue has shrunk markedly, from 82 percent of news business revenue in 2006 — before the recession — to 69 percent today.

Money from audience members now accounts for about a quarter of all revenue, Pew says, as it did in its recent State of the News Media report. Rick Edmonds noted that newspapers still account for about 60 percent of the news business’ revenue, despite their rough decade.

Retransmission fees have bolstered many TV stations’ balance sheets, as has political advertising revenue. That last category may be even more robust in future years after Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling that struck down a limit on campaign contributions. Read more


Pew: More seniors own tablets or e-readers than smartphones

Pew Research Center

About 27 percent of U.S. adults age 65 or older own a tablet or e-reader device while just 18 percent of seniors own a smartphone, according to Pew’s new report on seniors’ digital habits.

That’s the opposite of the pattern seen in all U.S. adults, who own smartphones at a higher rate (55 percent) than tablets or e-readers (43 percent).

All such device use among older adults follows the “elite” patterns seen in the overall adult population, Pew found: More education and higher household income are correlated with higher rates of ownership.

Meanwhile, more seniors embrace the Internet every year, but they continue to lag behind the overall population. Fifty-nine percent of seniors go online, while 86 percent of all U.S. adults do. But higher-income seniors and college-educated seniors go online at about the same rate as the general population.

Just 27 percent of all seniors use social media, compared with 63 percent of all adults, and older women are more likely to use social media than older men are. But they’re not tweeting: only 3 percent of all seniors reported using Twitter.


Related: 58% of US adults say they have a smartphone — and other sobering stats from Pew Read more

woman hand pressing Play button

Growth in online video news consumption slows

Pew Research Center

Despite the recent rapid proliferation of mobile devices, the number of Americans who consume video news online has increased just three percentage points since 2009, from 33 percent to 36 percent in 2013.

An uncertain future for news video on the Web is a key finding in Pew Research Center’s annual State of the News Media report released this morning.

Overall, the number of U.S. adults who view any online video has increased about 20 percent since 2009, before the iPad was introduced, while the number of U.S. adults who view online news video increased just 9 percent. That 9 percent growth over four years represents a significant slowdown from the 27 percent growth observed between 2007 and 2009.

Pew points out that the mobile boom is hardly over. It found 53 percent of smartphone owners watch online news video, while just 18 percent of those without smartphones do. So the appetite for video news online could still grow — if news organizations provide some quality options. Read more


Pew finds embattled newspaper industry still pulls in more than half of all news revenue

Pew’s 11th annual State of the News Media report, out this morning, offers fresh measures of news media revenue and news staffing at digital-only start-ups. Both findings are arresting for those of us in the news-about-news business but also shed light on the well-being of the industry as a whole.

Among the highlights:

  • The Pew research team attempted a revenue estimate for all the branches of the United States news industry it has covered in past reports. The surprising conclusion: Even though newspaper advertising revenue has fallen by half over the last decade, including subscriptions and other revenue, the industry still accounts for $38.6 billion of $63.6 billion in news revenue per year. That is roughly 61 percent of the total.
Read more

Missing plane: Only a third of people think there’s too much coverage

Pew Research Center

Almost half of the people surveyed by Pew think there’s been the right amount of coverage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Thirty-three percent said there was too much coverage and 12 percent — seriously? — said they haven’t heard enough.

It was by far the most-followed story among people Pew surveyed.

Fewer young people followed the story, for what that’s worth. And young people (those between 18-29) were also less likely to be interested in stories about government surveillance, Pew found. Only 14 percent said they were following surveillance stories closely, about the same percentage that was closely following news about Crimea. Read more

1 Comment
Mobile devices_depositphotos

‘Sideways’ visitors to news sites are less engaged, Pew finds


People who visit a news organization’s website directly engage with its content more than those who enter “sideways,” according to a new study by the Pew Research Journalism Project. People arriving via Facebook and search stay a shorter time and view fewer pages. Pew’s data “suggest that turning social media or search eyeballs into equally dedicated readers is no easy task,” Amy Mitchell, Mark Jurkowitz and Kenneth Olmstead write.

That finding was consistent across the 26 news websites whose comScore data Pew examined, even BuzzFeed and, “which have an unusually high level of Facebook traffic,” the report says. Read more

1 Comment

Get the latest media news delivered to your inbox.

Select the newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:
Page 1 of 6123456