Local Newspapers Won’t be Missed by 42% of Americans

March 13, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Newspapers | Youth & Gen X

Nearly half (42%) of Americans say they wouldn’t miss reading their local newspaper if it were to shut down, and 43% say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community “a lot,” according to research from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.


Results from Pew’s latest weekly News Interest Index found that those in the youngest age groups are least likely to miss newspapers, while those who get local news regularly from newspapers are much more likely than those don’t to see the potential shutdown of a local paper as a significant loss. Among regular newspaper readers, 56% say that if the local newspaper they read most often no longer published – either in print or online – it would hurt the civic life of the community a lot; an almost identical percentage (55%) says they would personally miss reading the paper a lot if it were no longer available.

People Aware of Newspaper Problems

In the wake of recent, high-profile news about the shaky financial condition of many of the country’s newspapers, the research, conducted March 6-9, finds that with media coverage of newspaper company bankruptcy filings, threats to close papers, actual shut downs and continuing job cuts, the public is aware of the industry’s financial problems. More than half (53%) say they have heard “a lot” about the problems facing newspapers, while 31% say they have heard “a little.” Only 15% say they have heard nothing at all.

When it comes to local news, more people say they get that news from local TV stations than any other source. About two-thirds (68%) say they regularly get local news from TV reports or television station websites, 48% say they regularly get news from local newspapers in print or online, 34% say they get local news regularly from radio and 31% say they get their local news, more generally, from the internet.


Newspapers Struggle to Attract Young

Newspapers have long struggled to attract younger readers. A recent analysis of newspaper readership by Pew Research found that just 27% of Generation Y – those born in 1977 or later – read a newspaper the previous day. That compares with 55% of those in the Silent or Greatest Generations, born prior to 1946.


Far fewer young people than older Americans say they would miss their local newspaper a lot if it were to close. Less than a quarter of those younger than age 40 (23%) say they would miss the local newspaper they read most often a lot if it were to go out of business or shut down. That compares with 33% of those ages 40 to 64 and 55% of those ages 65+.

However, many more of those younger than 40 (41%) say the shutdown of their local newspaper would hurt the civic life in their community a lot. About the same proportion of those ages 40 to 64 (42%) express that view, as do 51% of those 65 and older.

Democrats Would Miss Newspapers More

Democrats and independents are more likely to say their communities would be hurt by the loss of the local newspaper than are Republicans, Pew said. About half of Democrats (49%) and 47% of independents say civic life would be hurt “a lot” if the newspaper shut down, compared with 33% of Republicans.

Newspaper’s Role up for Debate

Among those who say the loss of the local daily paper would hurt civic life a lot, three in 10 say people rely on the paper to know what is going on in their community, the survey found.

Another 18% say that people in their area rely on or read the paper for general news. Some 12% note that their community has only one newspaper, while 10% point to their own familiarity or enjoyment of the paper. Another 6% say the paper provides better or more in-depth coverage than does television news and 6% worry that jobs would be lost if the paper closed.


Many of those who say the closing of the local paper wouldn’t make much, if any, difference in their communities note that there are other news sources available or criticize the newspaper’s quality. About three in 10 (29%) say there are other ways to get news, including TV, radio news and the internet. One-in-five say the quality of the newspaper is poor, while 5% say it is biased. One-in-ten say they don’t read the paper and almost as many (9%) say they don’t think other people read it either.

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