How We Get Our Political Fix

July 26, 2008 at 7:27 pm Leave a comment

We all prefer to get our news in our own unique way; however, for centuries newspapers and more recently television shows have been the only options, until now. Consumers are demanding to get only the news that interests them, in a format most convenient to them, and in doing so have found niches among television and the internet.

In just the last twenty years people have gone from relying on nightly news programs and newspapers, to having a nearly infinite source of news. The percentage of the American population that uses more traditional sources has sharply decreased in the last 15 years. According to a recent survey by The Pew Research Center For The People & The Press, the percentages of people who regularly watch local TV news, or regularly read a newspaper have decreased from 77% to 54% and 58% to 40% respectively between 1993 and 2006. During this time the percentage of people that read online news regularly has increased from less than 2% to 31%.

What makes this study especially eye-opening are the statistics between 2000 and 2006. The percentages of people regularly using each type of media have remained nearly stagnant. This includes local TV news, cable TV news, nightly network news, network morning news, radio, newspapers, the internet, etc. The masses have found their favorite sources of news and are sticking to them.

18-year-old Samantha DeVictoria explained that she reads Newsday, a New York City newspaper every morning. She goes on to say that she prefers the newspaper to television news because “I hate the commercials. You can ignore them in a newspaper.” A complaint that has pushed millions away from receiving their news from audio or video, where commercial interruptions have become more frequent.

Recently, there has been a great deal of news regarding whether those between 18 and 29 years of age are obtaining their news solely from satirical shows such as “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, and “Real Time” with Bill Maher. The Pew Research Center’s study asked this very question, and it turned out that only 11% of those ages 18 to 29 regularly watch “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. Ozzy Gezer, a 25-year-old student says that these shows are usually on “too late at night,” and that he prefers to watch a news network such as CNN to get his news before he goes to sleep.

Part of what pushes a person to one source of news instead of another is the important factor of time. Gezer explained that sometimes he does not have time in the morning to read a newspaper, so he goes to CNN.com where he can quickly grasp what is happening in the world. “I wish I had time to read the paper during the week, but it’s not always possible” said David Rubinton, a middle-aged attorney. He then said, “Sometimes I listen to the radio while commuting, or I surf the internet on my phone while I eat lunch.” Reading a newspaper is a more active, but time-consuming way to get ones news, and thus, is not always feasible.

“TV is more for when I’m lazy” said Mr. Gezer. “It doesn’t make you think”. Television news programs, to many, has become a form of entertainment instead of a source of news. Which begs the question, who is really more informed?

Many say that the Internet is the best source of news. One can get up-to-the-minute news from anywhere in the world, and from a variety of sources. Niches has formed in a recent “Web 2.0” movement, in which new technologies are allowing people to be more involved in how they get their news.

A technology called RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) allows you to aggregate news from nearly any modern website into a single, easy to use service, such as Google Reader, that notifies the user instantly when new stories arrive. Gezer’s comment on the technology is a familiar one to anybody trying to promote the benefits of RSS, “Sounds good, but I’ve never heard of it”. The very nature of RSS prevents content providers, such as The New York Times, The Associated Press, or CNN from collecting the ad revenue that would be obtained from the user visiting the website itself. This has impeded the adoption of RSS, as it simply does not make sense for The New York Times to advertise the feature; although nearly every news website does offer RSS.

Other websites, such as Digg.com and Newsvine.com are trying to provide a social aspect to news gathering. Users at these sites are responsible for which stories reach the front page through a voting system. Also, you can follow specific users’ voting if their taste in news complements your own.

Mr. Gezer brought up an interesting point during our discussion about social news gathering, “People go into a bubble”. In other words, if you aren’t interested in world news, you could just not follow it at all when using the Internet. When watching a TV show, listening to the radio, or even reading a newspaper, it is a guarantee that you will come across nearly every type of news. This is not true of those who use RSS, Digg.com, or even CNN.com. One can easily enter “into a bubble” and never again be informed about the genocide in Darfur, or global warming, or even the new celebrity sex video. Regardless of whether or not it benefits society, technology has allowed for the ultimate form of “news personalization”.

– Brian Rubinton

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