How Do You Learn About Your Local Community? Most Have Multiple Sources, According to Survey

People watch a live broadcast of U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testifying to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States April 8, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Television remains the top source of local news for most Americans but many now turn to the internet and cast a wider net for information on specific topics, according to survey results released Monday.

While local TV news was the main source for staples such as weather, traffic and breaking news, the internet was the preferred resource for finding more specific information, according to the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project.

Local news and information is filtered best via community, perhaps even more so in the digital age. People continue to show faith in community, whether learning news via word-of-mouth at the supermarket or via local sources and neighbors on Facebook and Twitter. Fifty-five percent said they get their local news via word of mouth at least once a week compared to 74 percent for television, 51 percent for radio, 50 percent for the local newspaper, 47 percent for the Internet, and 9 percent for a printed community newsletter.

Nearly half of all respondents use the internet on their phone and/or mobile apps for local information, especially when it comes to events and restaurants. But the survey found the most significant indicator of preference to be age. Those under 40 tended to be more tech savvy and would turn to the internet as a primary source for local information on 12 out of 16 topics.

While newspapers remain a primary source for many, nearly two-thirds of all respondents said they'd gladly turn elsewhere in the absence of a print daily. Newspapers rank or tie for first in 11 of the 16 categories in the study but after all, 45 percent said they do not have a single favorite source of information.


Check out this interactive chart to see what sources people turn to most for specific topics such as arts/cultural events, local businesses, schools, taxes, housing, local government, jobs, social services, and zoning/development.

Our predilection to turn to the wisdom of the community may also be tempered by our hesitation to trust the media in general. According to another Pew survey released last week, 75 percent say journalists can't get their facts right.

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The data in the nationwide survey show that the majority (64%) of American adults use at least three different types of media every week to get news and information about their local community and 15% rely on at least six different kinds of media weekly.

Pew Knight Local News Report: How People Learn About Their Local Community

The Public Note is a media blog, with an eye towards public media, from KCET-TV in Southern California. Andy Sternberg comments weekly on media issues. Follow him on Twitter at @AndySternberg and KCET at @KCET and @KCETNews

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