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February 27th, 2008

Two thirds of Americans View Traditional

Journalism as ‘Out of Touch’
By Andrew Nachison

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
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
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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