Diving Into How We Access Local News

In studies of the evolution in how Americans seek out news, the trends tend to be that we use search and other online methods for staying informed. The consistent exception is how we access local news. Despite the proliferation of hyperlocal blogging (my own neighborhood’s West Seattle Blog being an excellent example of how hyperlocal blogs can provide both high-quality journalism and to-the-minute breaking news about every local happening), we turn to TV and print far more often than online news sources and search for local news.

But stats can be misleading and a new Pew Internet & American Life Project and Knight Foundation study sheds some light on what’s actually going on. Typically, these studies ask questions such as “how to do you get local news”? But for this report, researchers asked “what sources do you rely on” for 16 specific subjects. They found that while it is the case that local TV is popular for news, Americans rely on it primarily for weather, breaking news, and traffic. But when looking for answers to other local issues, Americans are likely to turn to other sources.

The study also found that “for the 79% of Americans who are online, as well as Americans ages 18-39, the internet ranks as a top source of information for most of the local subjects studied in the survey.” In this context, “internet” refers to search engines, non-newspaper websites, and social networking sites. Reliance on the web properties of newspapers was categorized with “newspapers” and usage of a local TV station web site was categorized with “local TV”.


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