Report: Americans fail to appreciate local papers

NEW YORK (AP) ? A majority of Americans don’t seem to recognize the value of their local newspaper.

According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, most people say they wouldn’t miss local news if their newspaper no longer existed. But at the same time, they say they rely on their newspaper for a broad range of local information.

Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said their local newspaper’s absence wouldn’t have a major effect on their ability to keep up with information about their community. But print and online versions of newspapers ranked first or tied for first on 11 of 16 local news topics the survey asked about. People said they turn to newspapers first for everything from community and crime news to arts and culture, social services, zoning and development. Newspapers tied with the Internet for news on housing, schools and jobs, and with TV for local political news.

“People may assume that because they go to the newspaper now for that information, it is available somewhere else,” said Tom Rosenstiel, co-author of a report on the survey and director of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “I’m not sure if that is correct.”

Overall, Americans turn to a broad range of online and offline sources when it comes to getting local news and information.

TV is still the most popular source of news for most people, according to the survey. Nearly three-quarters said they watch local newscasts or look at local TV websites at least once a week.

And everyone, it turns out, wants to know about the weather. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they received information about the weather from some source. It was followed by breaking news, 80 percent; local politics, 67 percent; and crime, 66 percent.

The survey, from Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project, found that where people turn for information depends largely on their age. People under 40 are much more likely to turn to the Internet for local news, weather, traffic reports, job listings and information about events, restaurants, and social services. Those over 40 tend to look to the Internet mostly for information on local businesses such as restaurants.

“This move by younger users to rely on the Internet for local information puts considerable pressure on traditional news organizations,” the report said. It added that although most news companies have moved online with “ambitious websites and social media strategies,” there’s evidence that people find specialty websites and search engines a preferable way to find local material.

Half of the study’s respondents said they read newspapers or go to the newspapers’ websites at least once a week. Surprisingly, though, an old-fashioned source of information ? word of mouth ? turned out to be the second most popular way to get news, after TV.

“Word of mouth may be becoming more important as people get their news in little … snippets and piece it together on their own, rather than getting it all at once from Walter Cronkite at the end of the day,” Rosenstiel said.

Among the survey’s other findings:

? Nearly half of adults use mobile devices to get local news and information. Information about restaurants and other things to do “out and about” is a popular category.

? Only 17 percent of adults said they get local information from social networking sites such as Facebook at least once a month.

? 55 percent of those surveyed said they get local news and information by word of mouth at least once a week.

? Although many people get news online, the websites of newspapers and TV stations “do not score highly as a relied-upon information source on any topics.”

? Nearly half of those surveyed said they don’t have a “favorite” local news source.

The survey was taken Jan. 12-25 among 2,251 U.S. adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.