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Multitasking through the news

With news and gossip leaping off every laptop screen, smartphone and Facebook page, the common wisdom these days is that traditional news outlets are doomed.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral: People are spending more time following the news, rather than giving in to other distractions.

Traditional media are holding onto mindshare: A new Pew Research Center study says that on a given day, Americans spend 57 minutes a day getting the news from television, newspapers or radio, just as they did in 2000. But they spend an additional 13 minutes each day consuming news on the Web--a figure that doesn't even include stories viewed on cell phones. Highly educated folks, not surprisingly, are driving the increase.

Not everyone is an addict; 17 percent of those surveyed said they got no news of any kind the previous day. But the 83 percent who did are drawing their information from a wider variety of sources.

Digital news is not "crowding out" the old media and may even be "reinvigorating them," says Andrew Kohut, the center's president. He noted that nearly one in 1o people under 30 volunteered that they read the New York Times online when asked to name a few Web sites they use for news and information. Just as the advent of television didn't kill radio, peaceful coeexistence may be possible.
It's hardly time to uncork the champagne, as the overall picture is mixed for the struggling newspaper business. A mere 26 percent of those surveyed said they read a newspaper in print the previous day, down from 38 percent in 2006--a sobering drop, to be sure. But the decline was partially offset by the Web sites that newspapers are fashioning as a lifeline to the future. When online editions are added to print readership, 37 percent of Americans say they got news from newspapers the day before, down from 43 percent in 2006. In short, it could have been worse.
But the message is clear: Building readership online isn't just a promising sideline for those with printing presses, it's a question of survival. Only 19 percent said they read a magazine the previous day, down from a third in 1994. By contrast, 58 percent say they regularly watch television news. Online, the Web sites mentioned most often were Yahoo (28 percent), CNN (16), Google (15) and MSN (14 ).
The Pew report confirms a strikingly partisan shift among cable news viewers. Four in 10 Republicans now say they regularly watch Fox News, home to the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Just 12 percent of Republicans describe themselves as regular CNN viewers, and for MSNBC, with its lineup of liberal hosts, the figure is 6 percent. Back in 2002, the study says, Republicans were as likely to watch CNN (28 percent) as Fox News (25 percent).
On the flip side, Democrats make up 21 percent of the Fox audience, 47 percent of CNN's and 53 percent of MSNBC's.
Media outlets have varying appeal. Sixty-four percent of regular CNN viewers say they rely on the network for the latest news and headlines; 44 percent say that for Fox, but 22 percent offer other reasons, such as views and opinions. About a third of Wall Street Journal and New York Times readers, by contrast, say they are particularly attracted by in-depth reporting.
Ideology is an obvious factor. While eight in 10 Americans who regularly tune in to Hannity or Rush Limbaugh are conservative, regular audiences for MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow--and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert--are twice as liberal as the general public.
One telling note about the age of Obama: the left is getting grumpy. In 2008, when Barack Obama was a candidate, 67 percent of liberal Democrats said they enjoyed the news a lot. Now, with his presidency nearing its midpoint, just 45 percent feel that way. Conservative Republicans have held steady in their enjoyment: 57 percent then, 56 percent now.
Every survey of this kind finds big majorities believe the media are biased, and this one is no exception. Eighty-two percent of Americans say they see at least some bias in news coverage, most often liberal bias. As for those convinced that news organizations show a lot of bias, 62 percent of Republicans feel this way, compared with 47 percent of Democrats (and 53 percent of independents).
And there's an interesting footnote about how much the public knows about politics, compared with common Beltway assumptions. Twenty-two percent in the survey could identify Eric Holder as attorney general. Among the better-informed viewers of Fox and MSNBC opinion shows, that figure rises to. ..... 30 percent.

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."

By Howard Kurtz  |  September 12, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Latest stories , Top story  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Boehner opens the door
Next: Amanpour and the Imam


The question of news bias is interesting.

Yes, conservative viewpoints are regularly aired on Fox, and liberal viewpoints are frequently aired on MSNBC. And we all expect that.

But what about the more subtle biases? The leftward tilt of the vast majority of journalists? Journolist? The hard left views of some Post writers who pretend to write from the middle of the political spectrum?

I don't mind someone like Huffington who openly states her political beliefs. It's the devious pretense of others on the left who don't let you know who they really are and what they really stand for that irks me. The journolist sleepers.

Posted by: tacheronb | September 12, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Either president Obama is not considered "newsworthy", or, it's the fault of ex-president Bush. The Bilderberg Group has obviously not done a competent job on the issue.........yet.

Posted by: boblusby | September 12, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Leftist WaPo hacks whistling past the graveyard, as usual.

August 6, 2010 from Politico

"Washington Post circulation down 10%"

Posted by: screwjob21 | September 12, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Silly column. Imagine allowing Kohut to say digital news is "reinvigorating" old media. Kurtz should know by now that old media cannot survive on the meagre (relatively) revenue stream from it's websites. Really a trivial column by a guy who should know better.

Posted by: arlingtonkid | September 12, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

@screwjob - Perhaps you should buy some stock in the Washington Times. Oh wait. Never mind…


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 13, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Yes there may be some welcome interest in the news, but newspapers are still dead. Americans aged 18-35 want nothing to do with newspapers, and don't watch the evening network news. This is an astonishing change, and advertisers are following young people by abandoning traditional print and network news. Yet, stubbornly, print and network news execs are refusing to change their product to chase their audience. It's one of the classics of older generation not understanding the young and the failure to change is going to destroy both print and network news.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | September 13, 2010 5:14 AM | Report abuse

It depends on how you define "news source."

The NY Times is more comedy than journalism ... and the Post is not far behind.

Posted by: gitarre | September 13, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

If you see that about 60 percent read news at Yahoo!, Google, or MSN, then you can see that news is becoming very much a commodity. The ability to purchase and run diesel engine printing presses and huge broadcast transmitters used to be a high barrier to entry for competitors. Many journalists were free-riding on the capital-intensive market structure of news.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 13, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

By Chitranjan Sawant

Is the common man not interested in the daily news now? Why is the circulation of some national dailies showing a downward trend in America, Asia including India? Is the electronic media going to replace the print media completely in the foreseeable future? Myriad questions of this nature are indeed bothering the media moghuls across the globe.
Nevertheless, as a jurno you do not have to lose your sleep over these questions that make the news barons eat less protein, more carbohydrates and show the bulge around waist. If you are a cub reporter, you still have time to cross over to TV and change your pen for a dialogue delivery director's cap. You may be having more carry home cash. Never mind all that. Let us see the problems with a microscope to single out the germs and use a germicidal.
An average citizen now spends more time in earning bread and butter for self and the family. The house that he hires at the beginning of his career is far away from the place of work. So, the travelling time to and fro is much more than what his father spent when the life was simpler and the cut-throat competition was unheard of.
Why not read the daily newspaper in the metro or the tram on way to the place of work? Ah! you must be from a rural background still enjoying the open air sleep under a neem tree. Allow me to take you to Tokyo. The security guards have to push in commuters into carriages and old niceties of not stepping on the toes of ladies are given a go by.
The London tube or the Mumbai suburban are no better. Now the news should sink in that the sale of dailies is going down, although the number of copies of print order remains unchanged to impress the big tycoons who give massive Ad orders and pay cash. Never mind if there are too many unsold copies of the daily. These may be given to schools for children at unimaginable low price, even if they know no English. It is here that the Kabadiwala comes to rescue and buys the trash in bulk.
Yes it is the TV that is the spoil sport for the newspapers. No consolation prize for guessing that it is not the TV news but the soap operas that the bored housewives love to watch in the lonely afternoons and the tired husbands on return from the office. The TV news headlines are watched by one and all but not the rest of the news. Period.
Should the young journalists become actors for TV soap operas? Well, not a bad idea. Your employment for the next few years will be guaranteed; at least until wrinkles show on face notwithstanding a lavish application of the much touted cream.
Of course, another way of making the newspapers popular is to fudge figures and impress the financers and readers that all is well with the print media. But how long? A day will come when some disgruntled insider will let the cat out of the bag. Moral of the story is that fudging does not pay like a cooked up story

Posted by: vedicupvan | September 13, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Howie, the problem isn't that people aren't reading the Wash Post and NY Times. Readership is at an all-time high because the web allows people anywhere in the world to read it. The problem is the number of people PAYING to read newspapers is in decline. Giving away your product for free is just not a successful business model. The question is when will the Post bite the bullet and put their content behind a pay-wall.

Posted by: buffysummers | September 13, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable but its undeniably true: I cannot help but think that the 17% Pew Research finding of those who go no news from any of these sources, are those who make up the Tea Party.

Posted by: jaxas70 | September 13, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, conservatrolls, for proving the relevance of the mainstream media. If they're as irrelevant as you claim, why do you keep leaving comments at sites like this one?

Posted by: mattintx | September 13, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

It is commonly believed that the media is biased in favor of liberals. But quite honestly, I really don't see it. I often feel like I must be missing something because the view is so common. Yet, when I actually look for bias what I find is that it is spread around the media on a pretty much equal basis. Most of the panel discussions I see are generally well balanced.

In the print media, if anything, I find a conservative bias. For example, The two print organs most commonly accused of liberal bias are the New York Times and the Washington Post. Yet, on their op-ed pages, I find a balanced sprinkling of conservative columnists along with liberals. But, when I go to the Washington Times or the New York Post or the Wall Street Journal, I find no such willingness to balance their op-ed pages.

I think there is bias in all media. But, the characterization of liberal bias being so widespread is I believe a myth. And our electoral process seems pretty much a confirmation of that.

There is an inordinate amount of whining from conservatives on this issue. I think it is a crutch they always wield when they lose.

Posted by: jaxas70 | September 13, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

One of the main reasons Obama supporters are grumpy is that the media has become over sensitive about appearing too kind to this administration, so whenever there's a story about some positive accomplishment or activity by our president, cabinet, FLOTUS, or pentagon, it has to be tempered with some now 'fair and balanced' critique suggesting they're really somehow compromised in their motivations and actions, as if public service in itself can no longer be a noble end in itself.

And the really left leaning news outlets - they plain old won't be satisfied until the ghost of FDR stands at Obama's side while he introduces a new Chief Justice for the Supreme Court along with a few new amendments to the constitution...

Posted by: thanksforfish | September 13, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Where I use to read 3 traditional news papers a day, I now read none. ;o( The only time I read news papers is when I go out to eat for breakfast at places like Denny's.

This is one republican that does not watch Fox news, nor read their web site. Doesn't do a thing for me. Glen Beck and Rush? Yea, what ever. They are not the voice of this republican. Can't stand bigots, and I consider both of them bigots. If I hate your guts, its because your a liberal. Not because of the color of your skin or your religion.

Online news outlets?
Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, some New York Times, National Review. I find that I look to the Washington Post more than any of the other news outlets.

The liberal liars control all of the news media but I find the Washington Post the most level handed. I can find both for and against articles most of the time. And thats all I truly want. Its good to hear
both sides of an argument.

With regard to news. I find ALL the media outlets ignore non liberal views. Examples of news major outlets ignored:
Greenland, West Antarctic Ice Caps Melting At Half The Speed Previously Predicted

Again, ALL news outlet4s are liberal leaning and ignore or try to ignore stories that don't fit the their politically correct mindset.

Posted by: LiberalBasher | September 13, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I think the veracity or rather the lack of accuracy in internet sources have pushed the masses to verify the 'news'. The internet has been and will likely be the quickest source to break the information (I loath to call it 'news' in the journalistic sense), but it will still be the traditional media that will shape and distill that news for the masses with proper context and supporting facts. Trust but verify.

Posted by: SpecTP | September 13, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

It is disgraceful that you would post this without posting a link to the actual survey. That is lazy, sloppy and emblematic of the problems with journalism today. Do you really expect me to believe you without seeing the evidence? I won't. The old purveyors of news are struggling to find a business model, but not one based on news,it has been a long time since they delivered news. What is delivered today are summaries of press releases such as this one, and not even a link to the press release that described the survey, let alone a link to the survey itself.

Posted by: timothywmurray | September 13, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

ChickaBOOMer: FOX News Snares Dems, Independents

Posted by: StewartIII | September 13, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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