Where You Get Your News Matters

Thanks to the pandemic, the number of U.S. social network users rose by nearly 7 million last year to just over 212 million, says eMarketer. Meanwhile, the average daily time-spent on social networks among monthly U.S. adult social media users grew by 13.4% to 1 hour, 30 minutes in 2020, while growth in time spent among total U.S. adults was even higher, at 16.4%.

That is a lot of cat videos -- until you consider this data from Pew Research Center: Some 86% of U.S. adults say they get news from a smartphone, computer or tablet “often” or “sometimes,” including 60% who say they do so often.

Oh dear, and we are all familiar with the tendency for social platforms to echo-chamber/recommend stories that seem to agree with the news and opinion we have read in the past. 

Now, just because you read your news online, instead of waiting for the wet newspaper to dry out, doesn’t make you a bad person.  But you should never rely on the same sources day in and day out without occasionally going outside your comfort zone and reading something that doesn’t tickle your political or moral funny bones.  It will make you think -- and realize how even reputable media sources can explain a story in a number of different ways.



This is because for the time being, people -- rather than bots -- are writing more of the news.  It is up to you to decide if the “difference” in perspective is intentional bias or simply a different order of service from each news site.

About 68% of U.S. adults primarily get their news from TV at least sometimes, and 40% do so often. (Since the data given doesn’t track exactly which sites consumers visit while on a particular social media platform, it is very difficult to factor what percentage of users are just passing through social media on their way to news sites -- although I suspect the social platforms know exactly the numbers and the destinations.)

Before the internet, TV was the primary source of news for Americans -- which is also alarming, since TV news has (at least in my view) gotten progressively worse. I am talking primarily about major linear TV news, NOT cable news like Fox and MSNBC, which are more interested in giving you a point of view rather than just the facts. 

It should not be lost on anybody that Meghan and Harry decided to spill on TV, where they drew a U.S. audience of 17 million (about 50 million worldwide), and the story was not only posted to the CBS website (which paid major big bucks to Oprah for the rights), it will be rebroadcast.

And when 9/11 or hurricanes happen and you are near a TV, that’s where you go for wall-to-wall coverage. So TV is still a powerful force in informing Americans, but as with online, it should never be your sole source of information.

Sadly, only about 10% of Americans turn to print (newspapers and magazines) for their news. Sadly, because this profoundly hurts the ability of community papers to stay in business. But again, The New York Times or the Washington Post should never be your single source of news. The internet puts hundreds, if not thousands, of other major news organization a mouse-click or two away. Trouble in the Middle East (again)? See what Al Jazeera English has to say about it. Compare that with The Jerusalem Post or The Syrian Observer (knowing it is controlled by the government). You will get insights not found in most Western press coverage.

You will end up smarter for it -- and a far better dinner table guest.

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