.MDBO/Where Americans Really Get Their News.MDNM/
Every evening just before 7 we hear that "More Americans get their news
from ABC News than from any other source." This is the current version of the
promotional campaign the television industry began 36 years ago. The Television
Information Office commissioned Roper Research Associates to ask Americans where
they "got most of your news about what's going on in the world.".MDSU/1.MDNM/
Newspapers came out ahead of television, 57 percent to 51 percent the first
time, but by 1963 television had edged ahead of newspapers..MDSU/2.MDNM/ The
Television Information Office then proclaimed loudly that television was the
main source for news and kept on saying it more loudly as television's margin
rose to 24 percent..MDSU/3
.MDNM/ Well, it wasn't that simple then and it isn't that simple now. Mass
communication researchers doubted the finding and explored the issue in several
ways. Carter and Greenberg found that the question wording favored
television..MDSU/4.MDNM/ Lemert found that if you replaced "world" with
"Eugene and Lane County" (Oregon) newspapers came out far ahead of
television..MDSU/5.MDNM/ Stempel had a similar finding in three Ohio
Robinson asked people which news media they found "yesterday," and found
that newspapers led television. Cross-tabulating use with age, he found that
newspapers led for every .RHAWhere Americans Really Get Their News
/.RFA.FC/.PN/.FL//age group..MDSU/7.MDNM/ Stevenson and White found that the
percentage of people saying they got most of their new from television exceeded
the percentage that reported watching any early evening network newscast in a
two-week period..MDSU/8.MDNM/ Culbertson and Stempel further comnfirmed that
there is a difference between what media people say they use and what they
Reagan and Ducey found that newspapers outdistanced television as a source
for specific kinds of state news..MDSU/10.MDNM/ Stempel had a similar finding
for specific kinds of local news.MDSU/11.MDNM/
ABC's current claim is less ambitious. What ABC is saying is simply that
their early evening newscast anchored by Peter Jennings has a larger audience
that either CBS's or NBC's early evening newscast. It is about 14 or 15
million. That is a lot more than the 1.9 million of the .MDBO/Wall Street
Journal.MDNM/ or the 1.5 million of .MDBO/USA Today..MDNM/ On the other hand,
it is a lot less than the 59.8 million total circulation of daily newspapers
reported by the Newspaper Association of America..MDSU/12.MDNM/
The total audience for the three network early evening newscasts falls far short
of daily newspaper circulation.
The ABC claim obscures rather than enlightens. This suggests that it is
time to take a closer look at the actual use of newspapers and television news,
as Robinson did nearly two decades ago. We did so in a study by the E. W.
Scripps School of Journalism and the Scripps Howard News Service in the summer
of 1994. Our research questions were:
1) What is the extent of use of the daily newspaper, local television
newscasts and network television newscasts.
2) What is the relationship between age and use of daily
newspapers, local television newscasts and network television newscasts?
3) What is the relationship between income and use of daily newspapers,
local television newscasts and network television newscasts.
We interviewed 1000 randomly selected respondents between July 15 and
August 3, 1994. Our sample was drawn by computer from a computerized national
telephone directory. We randomized selection of respondents in the household
reached by asking for the person who would next celebrate a birthday.
Interviewing was done from Ohio University by upper class and graduate
students who were recruited and trained in interviewing by one of the authors.
.MDNM/ Respondents were asked how many days in the past week they had read
daily newspaper, watched an early evening local TV news program, watched a early
evening network newscast and watched a late evening local newscast. We also
asked a standard set of demographic questions including age and income
in order to address Research Questions 2 and 3.
More people read a newspaper on a given day than watch early evening local
newscasts, early evening network newscasts or late evening local newscasts.
Table 1 shows how many days a week respondents use each of these media. That
table shows that 47.2 percent read a daily newspaper every day, which is far
ahead of percentage watching any of the three kinds of television newscasts
every day of the week.
Table 2 reports the average daily audience for each of the media as
computed from the responses to how many days they watched. Newspapers have a
substantial lead over network television newscasts, but only as slight lead over
the early evening local newscast.
Tables 3 shows the average daily audience crosstabulated with age. We see
here a similar result to that reported by Robinson in that for all four media,
use tends to increase with age. The increase is small for the late evening
newscast, but for newspapers, early evening local newscasts and early evening
network newscasts, use is far greater for people over 55 than for people under
Table 4 cross tabulates use with income, with a somewhat different result.
Newspaper reading varies directly with income, with those with an income of more
than $60,000 far more likely to read a newspaper than those with less than
$25,000 income. For early evening local and network newscasts, the audience is
actually smaller among those with more than $40,000 income than for those with
less than $40,000 income. For the early evening network newscast, the audience
is in fact largest for those with less than $10,000 income. For the late local
newscast, the pattern is slightly different, with viewing being greatest among
those with incomes between $25,000 and $60,000. Clearly, the advertiser who
wants to reach the upscale audience should consider the newspaper the primary
medium for doing so.
Thus far, we have compared reading a newspaper with viewing specific
television newscasts. There are two other approaches here, which are shown in
Table 5. On the one hand we can compare the number reading a newspaper with the
number watching any of the three newscasts. It turns out that 42.4 percent
watched at least one of the three newscasts all seven days. That is
essentially the same percentage that read a newspaper all seven days. If we
look at those who watched at lest one newscast four days or more, that turns out
to be 77.1 percent, which is substantially more than the 57.4 percent that read
a daily newspaper four days or more.
From the data in Table 5, we can estimate that 72.0 percent watched at
l.east one of the three newscasts on the average day, compared to the 61.2
percent that read a daily newspaper on the average day.
There is, however, reason to apply a more rigorous test--namely how many
people watched both a local and a national newscast. After all, watching only a
local newscast is hardly the equivalent of reading a newspaper. Likewise,
watching only a national newscast is hardly the equivalent of reading a
newspaper. The newspaper contains both local and national news. Furthermore a
typical newscast has about as many words as one page of a newspaper. Watching
one newscast would be the equivalent of reading the front page and nothing more.
Table 5 shows the figures for those watching both a local and a national
newscasts. In other words, these are the people who watched a natinal newscast
and either the early evening or the late evening local newscast. Less than half
as many watch both types of newscast as read a newspaper all seven days. The
daily average that we can project from Table 5 would be 47.4 percent watching
both newscasts. In other words on any given day, less than half the people are
getting news from both local and national newscasts.
Table 6 shows correlations between days using these four media. The
correlations are all statistically significant beyond the .01 level, but most
are small. The only one of any real size is between the early evening local
newscast and the early evening network newscast, which is .619. The
correlations between number of days reading a daily newspaper and watching any
of the three kinds of newscast range from .102 with the late evening local
newscast to .182 with the early evening network newscast. Thus the explained
variance ranges between 1.0 percent and 3.3 percent.
Table 7 shows correlations between three demographic variables and media
use--income, education and age. For newspapers, the correlations with all three
demographic variables are significant. For television newscasts, the only
significant correlation is a negative .097 between education and watching the
early evening newscasts. But perhaps the most important point in that table is
that for the three types of television newscasts, the correlation between days
watched and income is slightly negative.
The ABC slogan, for all its cleverness, simply masks the fact that network
newscasts lag both newspaper and local newscasts in audience size. The claim
that "More people get news from ABC News than any other source" is true only in
the limited sense that the ABC audience is larger than that of any individual
newspaper. This study makes it clear that newspapers are more than competitive
with television news. There are more people who read newspapers every day than
watch early evening network newscast, early evening local newscasts or late
evening local newscasts. There are in fact more people who read a daily
newspaper every day than watch any of those three kinds of newscasts every day.
The average daily audience for newspapers is slightly larger than that for
early evening local newscasts and a good deal larger than that for early evening
network newscasts and late evening local newscasts.
This study also confirms the earlier finding of Robinson that television
news viewing like newspaper reading increases with age. It is not a matter of
newspaper reading being lower for people under 35 because they are watching
.MDNM/It is important to confirm this finding because at the time Robinson did
his study, most people over 35 had grown up without television. Now, more than
two decades later, that distinction is no longer true. The person who is 55
today was 8 years old in 1948 when television came of age. And the person who
is between 35 and 45 was not alive before television came on the scene.
This study also points out that the higher a person's income the more
likely he or she is to be a newspaper reader. For the people with more than
$60,000 income, the gap between newspapers and television news is enormous.
The newspaper thus may still be the main source of news for the American
public, especially if we consider volume of news. At the same time, the
newspaper is clearly the preferred medium for advertisers, especially local
advertisers because its margin over television increases marked as you move to
higher income people. Perhaps it is time for the newspaper industry to say so.
.MDSU/1.MDNM/The Roper Organization, .MDBO/An Extended View of Public Attitudes
Toward Television and Other Mass Media, 1959-1971.MDNM/(New York: Television
Office, 1971), p.2..MDSU/
3.MDNM/Burns Roper, .MDBO/Public Attitudes Toward Television and Other Media in
a Time of Change.MDNM/(New York:Roper Organization, 1985), p.3..MDSU/
4.MDNM/Richard F. Carter and Bradley S. Greenberg, "Newspapers or Television:
Which Do You Believe?" .MDBO/Journalism Quarterly.MDNM/, 42:29-34(Spring
5.MDNM/James B. Lemert, "News Media Competition Under Conditions Favorable to
Newspapers," .MDBO/Journalism Quarterly, .MDNM/47:272-280(Summer 1980)..MDSU/
6.MDNM/Guido H. Stempel III, "Effects on Performance of a Cross-Media Monopoly."
.MDBO/Journalism Monographs No. 29.MDNM/, June 1973.
.MDSU/7.MDNM/John B. Robinson, "Daily News Habits of the American Public," ANPA
.MDBO/News.MDNM/ .MDBO/Research Report No. 15.MDNM/, Sept. 22, 1978.
.MDSU/8.MDNM/Robert L. Stevenson and Kathryn P. White, "The Cumulative Audience
of Network Television News. .MDBO/Journalism Quarterly,.MDNM/ 57:477-481(Autumn
9.MDNM/Hugh M. Culbertson and Guido H. Stempel III, "How Media Use and Reliance
Affect Knowledge Level," .MDBO/Communication Research.MDNM/,
.MDSU/10.MDNM/Joey Reagan and Richard V. Ducey, "Effects of News Measure on
Selection of State Government News Sources," .MDBO/Journalism Quarterly.MDNM/,
.MDSU/11.MDNM/Guido H. Stempel III, "Where People Really Get Most of Their
News,".MDBO/ Newspaper Research Journal.MDNM/, Fall 1991, pp. 2-9. .MDSU/
12.MDNM/Newspaper Association of America, .MDBO/Facts About
Newspapers.MDNM/(Reston, Virginia: The Newspaper Center 1994), p.3.
Where Americans Really Get Their News.MDBO/
TABLE 1: Number of Days Read Newspaper and Watched Newscasts
in Past Week.MDNM/, .MDBO/in Percent.MDNM/
.MDBO/Number of Days.MDNM/
.MDBO/0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
.MDNM/Read Daily Newspaper 17.8 9.7 7.5 7.6 4.6 5.8 5.0 42.0
Local TV Newscast 16.2 5.4 7.9 9.4 11.6 11.8 6.1 31.8
Watched Early Evening
Network TV Newscast 20.8 7.4 10.5 12.8 9.7 10.1 4.9 24.0
Watched Late Evening
Local TV Newscast 32.7 5.6 11.9 8.6 6.4 11.2 4.2 19.3
.MDBO/TABLE 2: Average Daily Audience for Daily Newspapers and
Newscasts, in Percent.MDNM/
Daily Newspaper 61.2
Early Evening Local TV Newscast 60.5
Early Evening Network TV Newscast 52.6
Late Evening Local TV Newscast 42.8%
Where Americans Really Get Their News
.MDBO/TABLE 3: Average Daily Audience for Various Age Groups,
.MDNM/ .MDBO/ Age.MDNM/ .MDBO/ 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 Over
Daily Newspaper .MDNM/ 45.4 46.6 54.9 64.1 75.7 75.1.MDBO/
Local TV Newscast.MDNM/ 45.9 48.1 53.9 .MDBO/ .MDNM/60.1 72.7 76.5.MDBO/
Network TV Newscast.MDNM/ 38.0 38.5 46.8 51.7 71.7 65.5.MDBO/
Local TV Newscast.MDNM/ 34.0 38.8 43.5 41.2 49.4 48.8
.MDBO/TABLE 4: Average Daily Audience for Various Income Groups,
Income 10,000 25,000 40,000 More
Below to to to Than
Medium .MDNM/ .MDBO/ 10,000.MDNM/ .MDBO/25,000 40,000 60,000 60,000
Daily Newspaper.MDNM/ 50.9 56.2 59.4 60.1 75.9.MDBO/
Local TV Newscast.MDNM/ 57.5 61.2 62.2 56.1 53.4 .MDBO/
Network TV Newscast.MDNM/ 52.3 47.8 50.7 49.9 45.5.MDBO/
Local TV Newscast.MDNM/ 41.6 41.3 43.3 43.3 39.7
Where Americans Really Get Their News
.MDBO/ TABLE 5: Use of Daily Newspaper and Any of
the Early Evening Newscasts, in Percent
.MDNM/ .MDBO/Never 1-3 4-6 All
Days Days 7 Days
Read Daily Newspaper .MDNM/ .MDBO/ .MDNM/17.8 24.8 15.4 42.0
.MDBO/Watched Any One of the Early Evening
Local TV Newscast or the Early Evening
Network TV Newscast or the Late Eening
Local Newscast .MDNM/ .MDBO/ .MDNM/6.5 16.2 34.9 42.4
.MDBO/Watched Either Local TV Newscast and
the Early Evening Network TV Newscast.MDNM/ 23.1 30.8 26.2 19.9
.MDBO/TABLE 6: Corelations Between Days Read Daily Newspapers and
Watched Television Newscasts
Early Early Late
Local Network Local Newspaper
Early Evening Local Newscast
Early Evening Network Newscast .MDNM/.619.MDBO/
Late Evening Local Newscast.MDNM/ .260 .140 .MDBO/
Daily Newspaper.MDNM/ .152 .182 .102
All coefficients significant at .01 level.
.MDBO/ TABLE 7: Corelations Between Media Use and Three
Income Education Age
Early Evening Local Newscast .MDNM/-.050 -.096.MDSU/*.MDNM/
Early EVening Network Newscast.MDNM/ -.012 .019 .264.MDSU/**.MDNM/
Late Evening Local Newscast.MDNM/ -.019 .041 .113.MDSU/*.MDBO/
Daily Newspaper.MDNM/ .162.MDSU/**.MDNM/ .215.MDSU/**.MDNM/
*p .05 **p .01