Pew Study On Local Journalism Finds That Most Americans Have Embraced Digital News, but Still Want Reporting from Local Sources

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71% of U.S. adults think their local news media are doing well financially; 14% have directly paid a local news source

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).

Even as the preference for digital delivery creeps up on that for news via TV, local television stations retain a strong hold in the local news ecosystem. They top the list of nine types of local news providers, with 38% of U.S. adults saying they often get news from a local television station. That is followed by 20% who often turn to local radio stations and 17% who rely on local daily newspapers. Next come a range of less traditional sources such as online forums or discussion groups (12%), local organizations such as school groups or churches (8%), and community newsletters or listservs (8%). While individually these less traditional sources garner far smaller audiences than the big three (local TV, daily papers and radio stations), together they add up: 28% of the public often gets news from at least one of the six less traditional providers asked about.

The degree to which the public accesses each type of provider digitally versus non-digitally varies a great deal. To start, the vast majority of Americans who get news from local TV stations primarily do so the old-fashioned way: from the television set (76%), not from the stations’ websites or social media accounts (22%). Radio is similarly tied to its traditional form. But most other providers have a substantial share of their audience accessing them online. For example, 43% of daily newspaper consumers tend to get that news digitally, as do 49% of those who rely on community newsletters or listservs.

This nationally representative study also reveals that many Americans are not getting local news that is mostly about their own area – a concern raised by many journalism watchers following newsroom cutbacks and media consolidation. About half of U.S. adults (47%) say the local news they get mostly covers an area other than where they live such as a nearby city, while the rest (51%) say it mostly covers their living area.

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SOURCE: Pew Research Center