Information is power. Actually, there is no power in information but in who creates it and controls it. That's the power of information --how it's used. Did you know that local TV news is still the most popular source for local information in America? However, adults rely on it primarily for just three subjects: weather, breaking news and at a distant third, traffic. And that shrinking newspaper at the end of your driveway each morning is still the primary information source adult Americans turn to for a wider range of topics than any other.
These are some of the findings of a new study produced by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellent in Journalism and the Pew Internet & American Life Project in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The survey looks at how people learn about their community by breaking down local information into 16 key topic areas. The full report is an interesting read for a number of reasons. One finding is how the adult community, when divided between 18-39 year old, and 40 and over adults there is almost an inverse relationship these two groups have to how they use traditional sources such as television and newspapers and the Internet. The report also provides some important insight into the possible future for these sources and the impact they have and will have on the citizenry.
Just as important is the type of information people seek. Did you know information on local government is one of the least sought after topics? Only 42% of adults seek information on their government --and the primary source they use is the newspaper (19%), even in spite of the major reductions newspapers have made in their government beat reporters.
Here is where I found the report particularly interesting. It raises a number of issues regarding citizen knowledge of and interest in local government. The report states that newspapers matter less to adults under age 40 as a local information source. However, that is the primary source cited by respondents for getting information on local government. It also cites the role and vitality of the newspaper in the civic affairs of a community. As readership continues to wane among younger audiences, what source would replicate these topics "if the newspapers were to disappear"?
Using the findings in this report, I'll identify four challenges communities and their citizens face that can threaten their civic infrastructure:
Read the report and share your ideas to strengthen community information, dissemination and collaboration, especially about public policy issues.