January 25, 2005

The Media: More Voices, Less Credibility

A review of Pew Research Center for the People & the Press findings

Read chapterWhen the first President Bush ran for reelection in 1992, most Americans got their news from the broadcast networks, talk radio was about the only place one could go for hard-edged political discussion, and “the web” was a term associated mainly with spiders. A dozen years later, as the second President Bush begins his second term, the nation’s news universe has been completely transformed.

Changing demographics, lifestyles, business trends and, most of all, technologies have fundamentally altered the way we get the news. No single source today is nearly as dominant as network news was in the early 1990s. News consumers can choose from an expanding menu of options – print and electronic, network and cable, digital and analog. This has led to declining audiences for many traditional news sources and has changed the nature of competition among news outlets, from a set-piece battle among a handful of rivals to an all-out scramble for survival.

As the media landscape has shifted, so too have the public’s news tastes and preferences. Sitting down with the news on a set schedule has become a thing of the past for many time-pressured Americans; instead, they graze on the news throughout the day. More people are turning away from traditional news outlets, with their decorous, just-the-facts aspirations to objectivity, toward noisier hybrid formats that aggressively fuse news with opinion or entertainment, or both. Young people, in particular, are bypassing mainstream sources in favor of alternatives they find on the internet or late-night television.

This report, available below as an Adobe PDF file, is a chapter from the book “Trends 2005″ produced by the Pew Research Center.

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