R1 – Local News Consumption

Citation: Hindman, D. B. & Beam, M. A. (2012). Local news consumption. In L. Pintak (Ed.), The Murrow Rural Information Initiative: Access, Digital Citizenship, and the Obligations of the Washington State Information Sector. (Report).

Download Report: PDF (1.3MB)


As part of the Murrow College’s examination of rural information needs in Washington, a team of Murrow researchers set out to benchmark the impact of local news in the state. The main questions raised in this study are:

  • How do Washington state citizens view the health of local news?
  • Do rural residents view local, state, and national media differently than do non-rural residents?
  • Are Washington state residents different from citizens elsewhere in the U.S. regarding their use of local news media?
  • Are rural Washington state residents at a comparative disadvantage relative to rural citizens across the nation in access to local news and information?
  • Do Washington state citizens use online and mobile media to compensate for the lack of traditional sources of local news?
  • Are rural and non-rural residents of Washington state different in terms of political knowledge and civic participation?

To answer these questions, the researchers fielded a survey of Washington state adults from March 21 to April 27, 2012. This study includes an analysis of the findings from that survey. For comparison, the paper includes analyses of specific items that were repeated in a national survey fielded by the Pew Center for the People and the Press in January, 2011 (Pew Internet and American Life, 2011, January 1).The findings are grouped into four main sections:

  1. Media usage and local news: Citizen evaluation and frequency of use of traditional, Web-based, and mobile-media sources of local, state and national news
  2. Frequency of News Access: About a variety of local topics
  3. Online and News Media Participation: Frequency of sharing local versus state and national information online via a variety of new media
  4. Political Knowledge and Social Participation: Washington state adults’ political knowledge and social participation, with comparisons between rural and non-rural residents

Summary Conclusions:

  • Both non-rural and rural residents find it easier today than five years ago to keep up with local news, but non-rural residents find it significantly easier than their rural counterparts.
  • Rural residents are less frequent users of news media, both traditional and new, for local news than non- rural residents.
  • Rural participants are seeking out broadcast and online news sources as often as urbanites for state and national news.
  • Although there are no significant differences between rural and non-rural WA residents in accessing the Internet, in reading the news on the Internet, in new-media skills or in cell phone ownership:
    • Rural residents are less frequent users of local breaking news than are their non-rural counterparts.
    • Rural WA residents use search engines less than do rural adults throughout the country, and WA residents make less frequent use of Web search engines for local news than do adults nationwide.
    • Significant numbers of rural WA residents are not using cellular phones for news or for connecting with the Internet compared with urban residents.

These findings point to a lack of locally relevant content, not a lack of skills or interest among rural Washingtonians.