Casual Fridays: Does anyone watch the local news? Anyone?

Last week we asked our readers about where they got their news. I haven't watched local news for years, and I was wondering if anyone else in the blogosphere did. As several respondents pointed out, our results aren't going to be exactly a cross-section of society at large, but it may be useful to see the relative importance of different news sources among our readers. Here's a snapshot of the results:


As you can see, only two sources of local news were less important to our readers than television, and only one of those ("other print source") was significantly less important. The only news source our readers felt was significantly more important for local news compared to national news was the printed newspaper -- significantly more CogDaily readers prefer online newspapers for national news than a printed newspaper.

Also interesting is that for our readers, non-commercial online sources like blogs and email lists are in a virtual dead-heat with online newspapers as their most important national news source; these two sources are significantly more important than all other sources of national news.

But we still haven't answered our original question: who does watch local news?

Over our sample of 334 respondents, there was a small but significant correlation (r=.12) between age and importance of television for local news. The older you are, the more likely you are to value local TV news. One factor we thought might be important was how long you've lived in a particular area. Perhaps people who've lived longer in an area are more likely to watch local TV news. Nope. We found no relationship between length of time respondents lived in an area and their ranking of the importance of local TV news.

Are voters more likely to watch the TV news than non-voters? Nope. No relationship.

In fact, the strongest predictor of valuing TV news was simply the number of hours per week spent watching TV. There was a fairly strong (r=.28), significant positive correlation between TV watching time and rating of importance of local TV news. There were similar correlations for national and international news. If you're a TV watcher, then you tend to watch TV news.

Many respondents commented that this survey was likely to be skewed by the fact that it's on a blog. Perhaps our readers tend to spend more time online than average, and that's why they value TV news less. One point which seems to contradict that notion is the fact that we found no significant correlation, positive or negative, between hours spent online and hours spent watching TV.

The only other significant result we found was the relationship between age and non-commercial online news sources. There was a small (r=-.15), significant negative correlation between age and valuing of online non-commercial sources for international news. The younger you are, the more important blogs, email lists, and other sources are for you as an international news source (there was no analogous correlation for national or local news).

There were, however, quite a few interesting tidbits in our comments section. A surprising number of readers say they get their local news by word-of-mouth. Some readers lament that they have no local news source. (Doesn't every town have its own news blog?)

Finally, many, many of our readers complained that my question about voting in primaries was biased towards the U.S. since their countries don't have primaries. Sorry about that -- we didn't include that data in the results.

Do you have any other observations about how you get your news? Let us know in the comments.

And don't forget to come back next week for another Casual Fridays study.

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Question: Before you rule out alternative explanations (more online savvy sample) by citing null correlations (with hours spent online), have you checked the data for restriction of range? (A likely result of the same proposed explanations - e.g. ceiling effects in number of hours spent online)

Jennifer --

I don't think that would explain it. The mean Online Hours is just 25.5/week, with a standard deviation of 20. There are plenty of people with more than 45 hours of online time a week, and the practical limit is probably somewhere around 100.

(Jennifer is saying that perhaps many or most of our readers spend nearly all their free time online, and so that's why there's no correlation between online time and TV time. But only a small percentage of our readers spend more than 45 hours a week online, when they could be spending up to 100, so I don't think this is the reason.)

Very interesting findings. Actually, I used to watch the local news almost every day (except for weekends maybe). I'd start with the 5:00, which would go for a half hour. Then at 6:00 I'd tune in for some more (local) news.

The only reason I'm not watching now is because of an environment change - I moved out of the parents' place and have yet to sign up for cable. It's been a month, and it's actually weird that I don't seem to miss tv much. This is probably a good sign but I do feel out of the loop.

But wait - that's what the internet is for. Which is why I started using Google Reader. I forget how I found it but since yesterday I've been glued to my MacBook, adding feeds and folders and whatnot. So now, I've got my local paper and news channel feeds going to the Reader.

I'm a science nut. Since I found google read I just haven't watched TV. More recent and interesting info here. Thanks!