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Levels of trust in the news discovered through sharing — either verbally or electronically — are low. Most people who get news from electronic news alerts 92 percent also report getting information directly from news organizations that report the news. The survey data also show the powerful connection between the growth in mobile internet technology and social media. Those adults with a cell phone that connects to the internet are much more likely than those without one to find news through social media 56 percent vs.

Similarly, adults with smartphones are also much more likely than non-mobile users to get news through search engines 61 percent vs. Similar patterns emerged for owners or users of tablets. More than 6 in 10 Americans say they prefer getting news directly from a news organization compared with any other way. For the most part, mobile users are not more likely than non-users to trust electronic means of discovering the news. Levels of trust in social media, search engines, electronic communications with friends, and news alerts are similar between users and non-users.

The one exception is that smartphone owners are more likely than non-owners to say they trust news from online aggregators 27 percent vs. While people use different media for news each week, and only half express a preference for a device, most Americans do care about the means of discovery, or where they first hear the news. More than 6 in 10 Americans 61 percent say they prefer getting news directly from a news organization compared with any other way. That preference dwarfs all other discovery methods. Every other means of discovering the news was preferred by fewer than 1 in 10 adults, with search engines 7 percent , online publishers that mostly combine news from other sources 7 percent , and social media 4 percent , in order of preference.

Similarly, while Americans cite electronic news alerts as a highly trusted method of discovering the news, only 3 percent volunteer news alerts as their most preferred way to discover the news. Notably, nearly everyone, 92 percent, who gets news from electronic news alerts also reports getting news directly from news organizations. Word-of-mouth in person or over the phone 2 percent and sharing news with friends through email, text message, or other ways online 1 percent are cited by very few Americans as their most preferred way to get their news. Beyond the way in which Americans discover the news and the devices they use to access it, people also have choices in the source of their news — the type of news organization doing the reporting that they turn to.

And, similar to the way they discover news, news consumers discriminate between reporting sources in terms of their level of trust. Television news organizations are the most popular news source for Americans. Among the different types of TV news, more Americans 82 percent turn to their local TV news stations either through the TV broadcast or online than another other type.

Sizeable majorities also cite the three national network broadcast news operations 73 percent in their various forms and hour cable news channels 62 percent — such as Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC — as sources of news, either on television or digitally. A majority of Americans also cite newspaper content in its various forms 66 percent and radio-based news reporting sources 56 percent as news sources they accessed in the past week.

Slightly less than half of Americans 47 percent say they used online-only reporting sources such as Yahoo! Thirty-seven percent report using magazines — print or online — as a source of news in the last week. And, a third of Americans say they now get news from wire services such as The Associated Press AP or Reuters, something that was not easy to do directly before the internet. Question: Did you watch, read, or hear news from the following types of news reporting sources in the last week, or not? Yet people have varying levels of trust in these different sources, and, for the most part, only about half or less of Americans say they very much or completely trust any of these sources.

Overall, Americans report that they trust the information they get from local TV news stations to a greater degree than any other source of news, with 52 percent who seek out local TV news saying that they trust the information very much or completely. At similar levels, 51 percent of those who use the newswires say they trust them, 48 percent trust radio news, and 47 percent trust newspapers and the three broadcast networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS. Forty-four percent of those who use cable news say they have a high level of trust in it.

Users of magazines print or online as a source of news report slightly more modest levels of trust 40 percent completely or very much. Online-only sources of the news such as Yahoo!

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One in 4 users of these news sources say they trust them completely or very much, while 1 in 5 users say they trust them only slightly or not at all. Contrary to the idea that people now tend to trust news sources that share their point of view, taken together the findings suggest that rates of trust are highest for news operations that have less editorial opinion built into their model, such as local television news and wire services.

Again the findings suggest that news consumers with a plethora of choices are discriminating — utilizing sources that fit their habits. For instance, Americans who report that they watch, read, or hear the news at least once a day are more likely than others to cite a hour TV news channel as a reporting source they use 67 percent vs.

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Daily news consumers are also more likely than others to cite getting news from radio news organizations 60 percent vs. News consumers with a plethora of choices are discriminating — utilizing sources that fit their habits. Similarly, those who get news from newswires such as AP or Reuters tend to be continuous news consumers 42 percent throughout the day vs.

Mobile technology, similarly, correlates with heavier use of non-traditional sources. People with a smartphone are much more likely than those who do not have smartphones to say they get news from online-only sources like Yahoo! Mobile news consumers are also more likely than others to say they get news directly from newswires such as the AP or Reuters 36 percent vs. We were therefore able to include in our analysis those grants administered between and , but not for and beyond. Since the Foundation Center database is constantly being updated, there are minor variations between some of our totals derived from Foundation Center data as it existed during the summer of and data available today that forms the basis of the Media Impact Funders map.

Third, as previously reviewed a few of the better resourced news nonprofits have been able to diversify their revenue sources in recent years, growing their budgets while also decreasing their reliance on institutional foundation support. Drawing on currently available financial audit statements from ProPublica, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and Texas Tribune, at these better resourced news nonprofits, even as they have diversified their revenue sources over the past half-decade, grants from institutional foundations have remained an essential part of their budgets.

For example, at the Texas Tribune, the news nonprofit widely recognized as having the most diverse revenue base, foundation grants in still comprised about a third of income. In contrast, in the months following the election, the Center for Investigative Reporting did not experience a similarly appreciable spike in fundraising.

Between and , approximately half of all foundation funding was devoted to supporting decades-old, legacy non-profit media. Important to note is that this funding for public media supports not only station operation but also a variety of content besides news including music, culture, and entertainment.

Grants to public media, magazines, and newer, digital-based forms of nonprofit news are detailed in subsequent sections. Figure 2. View larger. Other funding categories displayed in Figure 2 were not of primary interest to our study but represent activities or initiatives that are generally intended to support journalism and its public understanding. These other categories of grants also highlight the tough choices and trade-offs that funders face, as prioritizing one of these areas, even if intended to indirectly improve the practice and reach of journalism in society, may take away from direct support for news production in an era when such funding is urgently needed.

Table 1. Table 2.

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Three of the top 5 were the Freedom Forum, Reynolds foundation, and Annenberg foundation. These respective grantmakers supported the Newseum; the University of Missouri, and various business degree programs; and the USC Annenberg School of Communication respectively. Breaking down the investments made by the Knight Foundation shows the trade-offs that funders face as they make grantmaking decisions. Table 3. Top 25 U.

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Before detailing grants made to digital based news nonprofits, for comparison it is useful to review trends between and specific to the legacy nonprofit sectors of public media and magazines. For public media, two dozen grant recipients received approximately 7 out of 10 foundation dollars distributed, with these grantees located in a few states and major cities.

Backed by a large proportion of general operating grants, public media enjoy relative flexibility in how this grant money is used, with only a portion typically directly supporting local, state, or national news reporting. Grant making also flows in the direction of magazines with a strong ideological perspective. Table 4 displays public media funding by specific focus or purpose.

State of the News Media | Pew Research Center

When funding is provided in the form of general operating grants, it enables public media providers to have more discretion, but the lack of guidance from foundations may also come at the expense of direct investments in local reporting and news collaborations that help fill gaps in waning newspaper coverage.

Table 4. Grants in this category are specific to independent community radio or TV stations that carry public affairs related programming. As Table 5 details, foundation funding for public media tends to be highly concentrated among a few dozen grant recipients. Similar geographic disparities are evident in Figure 3, mapping the amount of public media-specific foundation funding distributed across states between and Most of the top grant recipients in these states produce national news and public affairs programming distributed to stations around the country.

However, as public media organizations are called upon to become central sources of local and state news reporting, filling gaps in newspaper coverage and collaborating with other local news nonprofits, our analysis shows that in the great majority of states, public media organizations are likely to lack the necessary foundation funding to do so.

Among nonprofit media we examined, public media organizations were supported by the greatest diversity of grantmakers. Nineteen of the top 25 funders were independent or family foundations, two were donor advised funds, two were company sponsored foundations, and one was a community trust. Table 6.

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Funding support a variety of public forums and ideas festivals. Table 8. National news nonprofits specialize in various types of coverage and serve different readerships and audiences.

Yet despite this diversity, between and , 8 out of 10 foundation dollars flowed to just 25 news nonprofits, with 4 investigative journalism units topping the list. The top grantees were also notable for featuring six deep-vertical news organizations that specialize in coverage of topics like the environment or cities, and six nonprofits that have a clear ideological perspective. Figure 4 displays the distribution of foundation grants to various types of national news nonprofits between and Figure 5.

Deep vertical, subject specific foundation funding at national nonprofits, Table 9. LA Times is a commercial newspaper. Grants from the Ford Foundation supported coverage of wealth, poverty, immigration, and criminal justices. Five of the top 25, including the four leading grant recipients, specialized in investigative and public affairs coverage. Six were deep vertical news organizations including two focused on environmental coverage and two specializing in coverage of cities. Two focused on academic ideas and research.

How Americans get their news

Second, was the John T. Table Other major investments backed the Institute for Nonprofit News and related initiatives aimed at building capacity and collaboration across the nonprofit news sector. Other non-traditional grant funding supported public radio freelancers and journalism fellowships. Most of this funding was provided to the previously mentioned High Country News. Figure 7. Figure 8. Several of these grant recipients such as the Institute for Nonprofit News based in CA or the Center for Public Integrity DC received grants intended to support coverage by local nonprofits across the country.

Still, these findings indicate that large regions of the country, including the great majority of cities, lack a news nonprofit presence apart from what might be provided by public television and radio. Knight spread its funding across 56 grants to a variety of organizations. But most grants in this area between and supported digital news nonprofits and initiatives at universities launched over the past 15 years.

Almost all of the university-based initiatives depend on external funding. However, their affiliations with universities allow them to offset costs by drawing on faculty expertise and campus resources. Some primarily feature news produced by professional journalists and faculty with the assistance of students, frequently in collaboration with local and national news outlets.

Others feature student produced journalism under the guidance of faculty and professional journalists. Over the six-year period analyzed, news organizations or journalism initiatives at 5 universities accounted for half of all foundation funding in the area, and 25 universities received 9 out of 10 grant dollars distributed. The great majority of these universities were either on the East Coast or in California, leaving most states and communities without foundation funded university-based faculty and students working to bolster the local news ecosystem through original reporting or collaborations with public media and newspapers.

In terms of major grantmakers, twenty-five foundations provided almost all of the funding in the area, with the Knight Foundation accounting for a third of all grant dollars distributed over the six-year period we analyzed. Figure 9. S foundation grant recipients for university-based journalism, The concentration of funding in a handful of campuses located primarily on the East Coast and in California means that many regions of the country lack a foundation-backed university program that is helping to fill gaps in reporting on local and national affairs, training the next generation of journalists in the process see also Figure Figure Funding for university-based journalism initiatives by state, Ranking second, the Ford foundation supported university-based journalism initiatives that primarily focused on social justice, a strategic priority for the philanthropy.

As news nonprofit leaders and philanthropists consider next steps, our interviews and data analysis raise several trends and concerns that merit discussion. First, there remain conflicting interpretations about the growth and success of the nonprofit news sector. Some believe that the sector is flourishing and poised to take-off in the post election period.

Others express skepticism about the extent of this growth and its impact given the continued crisis in commercial journalism. Those we interviewed also raised concerns about a sector that historically has depended on a dozen or so funders, and the strong concentration of resources in a few news nonprofits.

In relative terms several news organizations have experienced tremendous success in foundation fundraising. For example, following the election, ProPublica more than tripled its combined revenue from foundations, large gifts, and individual donations. The Texas Tribune, Voice of San Diego, and MinnPost have similarly boosted their revenue by way of advertising, donors, events, and corporate sponsors. But in several cases even the best financed have struggled.

Looking more broadly across the sector, as Table 15 summarizes, our analysis suggests that even as a few dozen news nonprofits thrive, concern over funder dependency, financial disparities, and ideological partisanship are merited. Such concentration means that public media organizations across the great majority of states lack the foundation funding necessary to evolve into central hubs for local and state news reporting, filling gaps in newspaper coverage and nurturing other local news nonprofits.

At national news nonprofits, eight out of 10 foundation dollars went to 25 recipients and nearly half of funding went to the top 5, with a few dozen philanthropies providing most of the support. Nine of the top 25 national news nonprofits can be defined as having a clear ideological perspective. This absence is made worse by the previously mentioned concentration of public media grants to stations and organizations in a few cities and states.

Relative distribution of U. According to several people we interviewed, the great majority of national and locally oriented foundations still do not realize just how much of the newspaper and commercial media workforce has been lost and why that matters. Questions remain about whether this may have pushed philanthropic efforts down the wrong road, focusing on tactical approaches to combating misinformation and propaganda rather than a broader civic strategy aimed at restoring non-partisan and authoritative sources of journalism, particularly at the local and state levels where it is most likely to be trusted and used by citizens.

Part of the challenge in generating greater foundation support for journalism remains at the organizational level. As Table 15 shows, most nonprofit media funding derives from larger national foundations, rather than community trusts, public charities, or donor advised funds. Several of our interviewees also questioned whether foundation boards may be holding back investments in news and journalism because such investments do not fit easily with their strategic priorities relative to specific issues or problems of concern such as the environment, social justice, economic development, or health.

Some in the news nonprofit world also point out that foundations and donors give rather easily, sometimes automatically, to long-standing public media institutions, but do not in turn consider digital news startups operating in the same space. More collaborations between public media and nonprofit startups are surely in order, and there have been promising experiments. As philanthropic interest in non-profit news hopefully grows, the calculus between investing in public media and digital startups does not need to be zero-sum.

In the New York City-region, for example, the Revson foundation has used its grant-making to link together local non-profit news start-ups with the newsroom capacity, authority, and audience reach of WNYC, among the best resourced public radio stations in the country. Local news non-profits draw on WNYC reporting as part of their coverage and in turn WNYC often features their stories by way of its digital news platform. Louis Public Radio and the digital nonprofit St. Louis Beacon. In the post-election period, as the news nonprofit sector pursues growth and sustainability, recent trends suggest several reasons for optimism relative to diversifying revenue streams.


Launched in with backing from Democracy Fund, News Revenue Hub aims to help other nonprofits achieve a similar level of revenue diversity. Partnering with the Institute for Nonprofit News, the initiative provides technological and consulting solutions to aid news nonprofits in generating smaller-sized online donations from supporters and members via e-mail solicitations and other appeals, much like public media organizations have traditionally raised money by way of regularly scheduled on air fundraisers. A second strategy to overcome reticence among local donors and philanthropists is NewsMatch, a fundraising campaign launched with lead support by the Knight Foundation and joined by the Democracy Fund along with the MacArthur, Gates, Wyncote, and Rita Allen foundations.

These foundations pledged to match funds from other philanthropies and individuals, and then assist Institute for Nonprofit News members in generating financial support. With the help of Newsmatch, some nonprofits involved, such as the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, reported seeing their donations double in Our findings specific to the concentration of funding within a few national news nonprofits, the disproportionate focus on the environment and health as subjects, and deep geographic disparities in funding that favors the East and West Coasts all suggest there is merit to these critiques.

Apart from these geographic differences and subject biases, several of our interviewees not only expressed concerns that minority and ethnic communities are being underserved, but also that women who found or run news nonprofits are receiving insufficient funding in comparison to their male counterparts, a likelihood that merits further analysis.

The foundation world itself has been expanding in terms of generating increased commitment from well-resourced existing funders as well as several new to the field. As an experimental lab, the nonprofit also owns and runs the Philadelphia Inquirer , Philadelphia Daily News , and philly. In , the Barr Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation funders of this study , in a coordinated effort, supported more than a dozen different initiatives, including news nonprofits, journalism support organizations, and research in the area.

The New York-based nonprofit also announced the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, a program that funds an investigative reporter working with news organization from six smaller cities across the country. In terms of sheer new dollars committed to improving the news ecosystem more generally, the News Integrity Initiative, run out of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, is one of the more eye-popping recent efforts. It remains to be seen what the direct impact of this large investment will be on the nonprofit news space. There is also competition for foundation funding from big new players.

The Guardian and the New York Times have announced the creation of nonprofit vehicles to help raise foundation money. Within the news nonprofit sector, this has sparked some concern about competition over finite resources, with smaller nonprofit outlets the most at risk. Yet alongside any competition over resources, commercial and nonprofit news partnerships also appear to be increasing in scope and number, with some of these joint efforts producing award-winning work. Among experts and leaders in the nonprofit news sector, there is a candid realization that the sector must persuasively spread a message of urgent need across the funding world more broadly, mobilizing more resources on behalf of journalism.

There is an almost universal acknowledgement that relatively few philanthropies have expertise in this area. Few would be comfortable reviewing applications and picking winners given existing in-house staff and knowledge, even if foundations were to embrace this new direction. An increased effort to educate foundations and donors, and to provide expertise on investing in journalism, might well be in order.

Some of this is already being done, but scale is clearly the key. If these funds were pooled and guided by shared expertise through a common, expert re-granting vehicle, such a strategy might provide substantial, targeted new resources at the grassroots level. Whether or not such a proposal is feasible remains to be seen.

What is clear, however, is that a key plank in the platform of democracy has given way, and the support it provided can no longer be taken for granted. The findings in this report were informed by more than 30 semi-structured interviews with thought leaders, stakeholders, and experts in this domain. We did ask that, if willing, interviewees be acknowledged by name together in the documentation of this report for the purposes of transparency.

To that effect, we would like to express our gratitude to the following persons. Current or relevant former affiliations are listed. Interviewees included:. The authors would like to thank the Barr Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation for their generous support of this project. Any views expressed are those of the authors. Philanthropy in democratic societies. Reich, C.

Part 3: The role of newspapers

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