Two thirds of Americans View Traditional Journalism as ‘Out of Touch’

For the second year in a row we’ve documented a devastating lack of satisfaction with journalism in American – and an opportunity to do something about it. Here’s the formal press release of the new research, which we discussed in the opening session of this year’s We Media Miami Forum and Festival. The good news: Americans believe journalism is important. The bad news: They don’t like or trust the journalism in their communities. One thing is clear: Our forecast from four years ago of “the digital everything” has arrived – the Internet is the primary source of news for more people than any other. There’s no going back. The widespread dissatisfaction with traditional journalism could be viewed ominously, by those who produce and sell it, as a cause for alarm, a reflection of ongoing decline and a likely foreshadowing of further decline. But for the We Media culture a tremendous opportunity emerges – not only to produce better and more trusted journalism but to build better communities around it. In the We Media culture that’s an opportunity for everyone, including but by no means limited to those who think of themselves as media companies or professionals. Civic groups, healthcare companies, nonprofits, local governments and activists are starting to flex their muscles as story-tellers too. The future, like the past, will be full of stories. – Andrew Nachison

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Two thirds of Americans – 67% – believe traditional journalism is out of touch with what Americans want from their news, a new We Media/Zogby Interactive poll shows.

The survey also found that while most Americans (70%) think journalism is important to the quality of life in their communities, two thirds (64%) are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities.

Meanwhile, the online survey documented the shift away from traditional sources of news, such as newspapers and TV, to the Internet – most dramatically among so-called digital natives – people under 30 years old.

Nearly half of respondents (48%) said their primary source of news and information is the Internet, an increase from 40% who said the same a year ago. Younger adults were most likely to name the Internet as their top source – 55% of those age 18 to 29 say they get most of their news and information online, compared to 35% of those age 65 and older.

These oldest adults are the only age group to favor a primary news source other than the Internet, with 38% of these seniors who said they get most of their news from television. Overall, 29% said television is their main source of news, while fewer said they turn to radio (11%) and newspapers (10%) for most of their news and information. Just 7% of those age 18 to 29 said they get most of their news from newspapers, while more than twice as many (17%) of those age 65 and older list newspapers as their top source of news and information.

Web sites are regarded as a more important source of news and information than traditional media outlets – 86% of Americans said Web sites were an important source of news, with more than half (56%) who view these sites as very important. Most also view television (77%), radio (74%), and newspapers (70%) as important sources of news, although fewer than say the same about blogs (38%).

The Zogby Interactive survey of 1,979 adults nationwide was conducted Feb. 20-21, 2008, and carries a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points. The survey results were announced at this week’s fourth-annual We Media Forum and Festival in Miami, hosted by the University of Miami School of Communication and organized and produced by iFOCOS, a Reston, Va.-based media think tank (www.ifocos.org). This is the second year of the survey.

“For the second year in a row we have documented a crisis in American journalism that is far more serious than the industry’s business challenges – or maybe a consequence of them,” said Andrew Nachison, co-founder of iFOCOS. “Americans recognize the value of journalism for their communities, and they are unsatisfied with what they see. While the U.S. news industry sheds expenses and frets about its future, Americans are dismayed by its present.

“Meanwhile, we see clearly the generational shift of digital natives from traditional to online news – so the challenge for traditional news companies is complex. They need to invest in new products and services – and they have. But they’ve also got to invest in quality, influence and impact. They need to invest in journalism that makes a difference in people’s lives. That’s a moral and leadership challenge – and a business opportunity for whoever can meet it.”

The survey finds the Internet not only outweighs television, radio, and newspapers as the most frequently used and important source for news and information, but Web sites were also cited as more trustworthy than more traditional media sources – nearly a third (32%) said Internet sites are their most trusted source for news and information, followed by newspapers (22%), television (21%) and radio (15%).

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Although the vast majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism (64%), overall satisfaction with journalism has increased to 35% in this survey from 27% who said the same in 2007.
  • Both traditional and new media are viewed as important for the future of journalism – 87% believe professional journalism has a vital role to play in journalism’s future, although citizen journalism (77%) and blogging (59%) are also seen as significant by most Americans.
  • Very few Americans (1%) consider blogs their most trusted source of news, or their primary source of news (1%).
  • Three in four (75%) believe the Internet has had a positive impact on the overall quality of journalism.
  • 69% believe media companies are becoming too large and powerful to allow for competition, while 17% believe they are the right size to adequately compete.

Republicans (79%) and political independents (75%) are most likely to feel disenchanted with conventional journalism, but the online survey found 50% of Democrats also expressed similar concerns. Those who identify themselves as “very conservative” were among the most dissatisfied, with 89% who view traditional journalism as out of touch.

Further Details: Zogby Methodological statement

9 thoughts on “Two thirds of Americans View Traditional Journalism as ‘Out of Touch’

  1. I find this study fascinating, and would love to see the entire write up of it this weekend if possible.

    I am writing a press release that will mention this study and also discuss WordPress and its creator Matt.

    Could anyone involved in the creation of the above study, or anyone who is interested in wordpress and its effects on society please contact me at the following e-mail address purposeincpr@live.com
    To repeat it in case it is edited out purposeincpr (at) live.com

    Please immediately e-mail me any comments that I can use for my press release.

    I strongly believe that the internet and the freedom of information it provides will be the flag of freedom that we have all waited for, for such a long time!

    Much Love to all,
    dk

    The above e-mail address will only be checked until this coming Monday morning 3/2/08 after that you can contact me at my site.

  2. Some of the results of this study say volumes more about segments of our fellow citizens than about “traditional journalism” or the media through which people receive their information. It is at least heartening to know that “Very few Americans (1%) consider blogs their most trusted source of news, or their primary source of news (1%).”

    However, where on earth do these people who so distrust traditional journalism think that non-blog Web-based journalism originates. Chances are that a good 80 percent of the time, those people receiving their information via the Internet are receiving it via online services that bundle headlines from the online versions of newspapers, magazines, radio and television broadcasts.

    Failing that, the news comes from e-newsletters sent by highly targeted media from educational, think tank, political or cultural sources the online readers trust. Examples here could range from RAND and McKinsey & Co. to Knowledge@Wharton or the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    At least a clear majority of those surveyed – no matter how dissatisfied with “traditional journalism” they may be – feel that those traditional media have a vital role to play in the future. No kidding! Once again, if one doesn’t trust unsubstantiated bloggers (and I draw a bright line here between those bloggers without credentials and those whose resumes show a very clear grasp of the subjects discussed on their blogs), the information has to be coming from somewhere.

  3. I have worked in TV news for several years. The company I work for is cutting jobs. Photographers, editors, reporters and others are being fired (news is the biggest money maker and expense). The big companies, who by the way are not losing money, are firing people to make a bigger profit than they have been making. Some are hiring high school graduates or fresh out of college kids right off the street to be the new reporters operating as one man bands (shoot, write, edit and drive themselves around). The goal of these transient reporters will be to work somewhere where they don’t have to be a one man band. All it takes is one station in your city to go this route and the others will follow. The TV companies are cutting their own throats to make money today while at the same time creating a an inferior product which will eventually devolve into an unwatchable show. Some shows are already that way. If you think people don’t trust TV journalist today wait until they see a rotating flock of people who don’t care about the city except as a stopping place, won’t live in the city for long and who think big news is that Britney Spears and K-fed are dating again. It is a sad time in professional journalism when giving viewers only the drivel they want and like, and not the important news they need but may not like, is the only way to get them to watch. I think most people read only the stories on the web that sound cool, involve celebrities, or involve their personal issues. Gone are the days of understanding the bigger issues and how they effect you and the other people in the world. And yes, their are other people in the world.
    I hope I’m wrong but the new journalism won’t be better than it will be cheaper. In the end the public loses.

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