Broke and distrustful: Why Americans are turning away from the daily news | US news

This may just be another piece of bad news. And if so, there is evidence that many of you are walking away in despair.

The Reuters Institute revealed last month that 42% of Americans actively avoid the news at least some of the time because it bothers them or they simply don’t believe it. Fifteen percent said they disengaged from news coverage altogether. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Brazil, the numbers who selectively avoided it were even higher.

“In America, those who identify on the right are much more likely to avoid the news because they think it is unreliable or biased, but those on the left are more likely to feel overwhelmed, to have feelings of impotence or to worry about it. the news could create arguments,” said the institute.

The Reuters Institute said that along with the increase in people avoiding the news, there is a drop in trust in reports in the US to an all-time low of just 26% of the population .

All of this rang true to Amanda Ripley, former Time reporter and author of High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped – and How We Get Out. She confessed in a Washington Post column that shamed him as a reporter into admitting that he’s “actively avoided the news for years.” Ripley said it left her “so exhausted I couldn’t write.”

So he rationed his consumption, cutting out television news entirely and waiting until later in the day to read the papers. But it kept coming to him on the phone and on social networks.

“If you look at this data from Reuters and extrapolate it, we can estimate that approximately 100 million American adults are not meeting their news needs,” Ripley said.

The result, the Reuters Institute said, is that Americans are pushing back. “Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, consumption of traditional media, television and print, declined further as online and social consumption did not make up the gap,” he said.

However, longtime major news organizations are skeptical that their audience numbers continue to grow. Professor Emily Bell, founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, said that while there are short-term peaks and troughs in news coverage around major events, the long-term trend it’s up

Bell said that in recent years the total number of stories read by Americans has grown to far greater than he ever imagined. “So I start from this position of, is this really happening? People say, ‘I’m sick of the news, I’m actually taking steps to avoid it or I’m just not paying attention.’ take them at their word, statistically I’d like to see a little more evidence that it’s true,” he said.

The Guardian’s audience figures reflect these doubts. Readership in the US rose sharply during the first months of the Covid pandemic, fell back a bit, and then rose to a new high during the 2020 presidential election. It peaked again after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in march But the long-term trend for The Guardian USA is up, and even when readership is down, it’s still significantly higher than before the pandemic.

Bell also noted that while younger people may be moving away from traditional news sources, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re moving away from news.

“Podcasting has an incredibly strong young audience. This is a long story format, which really appeals to the under 25s, which I don’t think anyone could have predicted. A couple of years ago, I was teaching a group of students and they weren’t very interested in the core production of the New York Times, but if you mentioned Michael Barbaro and The Daily podcast (the New York Times daily podcast) they were incredibly excited,” she said.

Americans may say they’re turning away from some news because there’s so much more coming in, but at the same time they’re still consuming more than ever.

Still, Americans, exhausted by it all, may be increasingly prone to retreat between big stories. It’s also possible for people to say they’re turning away from some news because there’s a lot more coming in, but at the same time they’re still consuming more than ever.

Ripley said she has been “inundated” with messages from Americans both inside and outside the news business who feel as she does about what seems to be a relentless barrage of negativity. “Many of them said heartbreaking things. Someone said, ‘I felt like my brain was being ripped apart,'” she said.

“Especially with the pandemic, there’s been a lot of very disturbing and nerve-wracking news. You can’t help it, it creeps into every crack in your life. It’s invasive in a way that it wasn’t even 10 years ago.”

Bell, who sits on the commercial board of Guardian Media Group, agreed. “The feeling of being overwhelmed, especially with worrying and bad news, is very real. It’s exhausting,” she said. “People feel for their own mental stability, that there are a certain number of things you can’t do much about on a daily basis, where turning off the news can be a very attractive thing.”

Bell said part of the problem is how the news gets to us. Three decades ago, Americans would have read about the Rwandan genocide in the newspaper dropped on their doorstep, or heard about it on the radio and television, and then turned the page or listened to the next news story. Maybe they would have read it again the next day.

“The way we’ve designed our new communications infrastructure has to be absolutely relentless,” he said. “If I read a story about someone getting sick or dying, possibly because they had to get a Covid vaccine, I have 50 stories about people dying in every media outlet in the world. So the overwhelming impression you might have is that something bad was happening with vaccines even if it wasn’t. And while each story was more or less accurate, it only represented a small part of what was happening in the real world.”

Molly Bingham, the founder of Orb Media, which reports on global efforts to create a more sustainable future, sees an additional problem in the loss of trust in how news is covered.

As the Reuters Institute pointed out, there are Americans on the right who don’t trust the media very much because they don’t reflect their political beliefs, and so they turn away from or stick with sources that tell them what they want. she But Bingham, who made a well-received documentary about the armed resistance in Iraq, sees a broader credibility problem.

“There’s a massive oversimplification. If you look at the current conflict in Ukraine, and the way the US media has presented it in a narrative, we’re all very comfortable with ‘good Ukrainians standing up to bad Russians’ . But there’s also this kind of cognitive dissonance because when Iraqis opposed the presence of foreign troops in their country, they were terrorists, they were very bad,” he said.

“I think very simple stories are alienating because they don’t reflect our experience of the world.”

One answer, Ripley said, is solution-based journalism, and she has some of her own. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who study what humans need to thrive in an information-saturated environment. There were three ingredients that were missing, and those are hope, action, and dignity. Those are things I find every time I go out into the field, recounting terrible tragedies, but I didn’t always include them in the piece,” he said.

All of this raises an old question that has haunted newsrooms for years: – Do readers, listeners and viewers really want positive stories? Bell is skeptical. “We often say, if only journalists wrote more good news. That’s a horrible thing to say, but people tend not to read the good news,” he said.

“For example, you could see some of the progress that’s been made on climate goals. Now, it’s not great news, but they’ve still made progress. If you write a fairly long considered piece on that, it tends to get quite a bit of traffic low. If you have a piece that says Britain is going to hit 40C (104F) next week, everyone will read that piece.”

Ripley recognizes the problem. “I think there’s some truth to it, but I don’t think it’s the whole story. Increasingly, stories that are hopeful, surprising, spark curiosity, those stories go viral. Stories that offer hope, agency, and dignity seem breaking news at the moment, because we’re so overwhelmed by the opposite,” he said.

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