What information do you trust?

According to a new survey, online news is widely considered just as credible as newspapers and TV news.  In some countries, including the United States, it’s seen as even more trustworthy.  But the survey found that blogs, as opposed to online news sites, are almost universally distrusted.

The study, by the research and marketing group TNS, asked more than 27,000 people in 16 countries to rate a variety of information sources on a scale of 1 (don’t trust at all) to 10 (trust completely). The US was one of just three countries where online news was more trusted than television: 38% for online vs 33% for TV news and 34% for newspapers. The other two countries? France and Italy.

Those numbers may be disappointing, but blogs get much more negative reviews.  Only one person in 10 in the US and around the world said they trust what they read on blogs.  TNS vice president Don Ryan calls that “heartening.”

Online blogs clearly have no real accountability.  Although they may be a great source of entertainment and a useful source of information and reviews they are clearly highly subjective.  The move of traditional news media into the online space has ensured that the trust of traditional media has spread into to online-only sources too.

Still, the news media are far from being the most trusted source in the United States.  According to the survey, that distinction belongs to recommendations from friends, which 48% said they trusted.

A separate study also released this week looked only at where Americans turn for news.  The results: local TV remains the main source of news for most Americans, followed by cable, local newspapers and network TV.

According to the Gallup survey, for the first time since 1995, significantly more Americans say they turn to cable news networks daily than say they turn to nightly network news programs. Cable news was one of only two sources to show a substantial increase in audience.  The other one is no surprise: Internet news showed the biggest jump with 31% of Americans now saying it’s a daily news source. That’s up almost 50% since 2006.

But the audience for most other news sources, including NPR and national newspapers, is holding steady.  At the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, that’s pretty good news in these grim economic times.

TV & Web are a popular pair

According to Reuters, new research from Nielsen finds that 31% of online activity occurs while the user is watching television.

The findings help explain why TV viewing is on the rise at the same time new media is also growing.

The report does not break down the types of Internet activity engaged in by TV viewers or what types of programming they might be watching while online, but that information might prove very valuable for newsrooms as they look for ways to engage the audience online while keeping them watching traditional news programming.

Saving the news

Uh-oh. It looks like we’ve finally done it; we’ve given people too much news and information.

In an article for the Columbia Journalism Review, author Bree Nordensen writes about frustrated news consumers who have so much data coming at them every day, that many simply choose to ignore it all. She cites research commissioned by the Associated Press that found people suffering from “news fatigue.” With so much information available from so many sources, these news consumers feel helpless and unable to process it all. In reaction, the study found, they stopped trying to stay informed.

Another study by Northwestern University’s Media Management Center found young people avoiding online news of the 2008 election “because they feel too much information is coming at them all at once and too many different things are competing for their attention.”

The study participants said they wanted news organizations to display less content in order to highlight the essential information. “Young people want the site design to signal to them what’s really important . . . instead of being confronted by a bewildering array of choices,” write the researchers in their final report, From “Too Much” to “Just Right”: Engaging Millennials in Election News on the Web.

So, what’s the solution? Nordensen offers this advice:

The greatest hope for a healthy news media rests as much on their ability to filter and interpret information as it does on their ability to gather and disseminate it. If they make snippets and sound bites the priority, they will fail. Attention—our most precious resource—is in increasingly short supply. To win the war for our attention, news organizations must make themselves indispensable by producing journalism that helps make sense of the flood of information that inundates us all.

This article is a great read for anyone involved in journalism today. The article goes on to offer strategies and solutions to help newsrooms begin to save themselves, something too often missing from this kind of reporting. Ironically, a downside to the article, as is referenced in several of the comments, is that it’s probably too long for some readers. I guess victims of information overload are everywhere.

Wanted: “Journalism plus”

Anyone looking for a job in journalism needs to know what employers want.  The short answer is, they want it all.  They’re looking for journalists who can process information and write clearly, and who also have high-level technical skills.  And that’s not all.

Jim Brady, executive editor of Washington Post.com says skills like Flash and video editing are nice to have, but they’re useless if you don’t understand the changing media landscape.  In a conversation with Alfred Hermida (posted on MediaShift), Brady says he expects new hires to understand how people are consuming media.  The first thing he asks in a job interview: assess the changes in media in the last five years and where do you see it going?

Len Brody, CEO of NowPublic.com, told Hermida that journalists not only need to know about those changes, they must be prepared to take advantage of them.  “Your marketing capabilities are going to be as important as your writing capabilities,” he says.  That means understanding search engine optimization, tagging, and how to discover news within social networks, Brody says.

Robert Scoble of Fast Company TV agrees.  “You have to write in a style that gets you into Google, FriendFeed, Twitter,” he says. In today’s world, Scoble says, employers want “journalism plus.”

This weekend, I’ll be at a journalism seminar at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, sponsored by the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association.  I’ll keep my ears open for other suggestions.

New TV-newspaper partnership

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard news of a network-affiliated television station creating a new partnership with a major daily newspaper, but the Baltimore Sun and CBS-affiliate WJZ-TV in Baltimore are now multimedia partners.

Editor & Publisher reports that the organizations will share story leads and partner on projects, but promotional opportunities and advertising revenue are a big part of the deal.

WJZ will also provide news video to Balimoresun.com. WJZ’s sales team will be responsible for selling advertising inventory within WJZ videos running on Baltimoresun.com.

The paper will promote some WJZ stories and the Sun will get daily promotion for some of its stories in the station’s newscasts.

This type of partnership between news organizations with different corporate owners was common a few years ago, but many have since dissolved.  It would be interesting to find out what makes these partnerships work when they do and why they so often fall apart.

The future of journalism

We hear plenty of doom and gloom about journalism these days – especially on the print side.  But Bob Guccione, Jr. is more hopeful, and in his Huffington Post article, he offers four predictions for the future of journalism:

1) Within two years, a major city daily will transform itself into a free paper. Home delivery will still require a paid subscription. The Sunday paper will continue to be sold and will morph into a hybrid of the best of a pleasurable Sunday-paper reading experience and a week-long events resource.

2) A cable channel will pass one or more of the Big Four broadcast networks in total viewership, chiefly because it makes better programs.

3) Google will lose significant market share, because viable competitors will create as good or better search engines and incentivize people to use them.

4) The Internet will not consume print, because it’s not strong enough, it’s not better, and it’s too busy consuming itself.

Guccione goes on to say that newspaper executives have to quit complaining and start innovating.  That may not be new, but he says it so eloquently.

The future of media will boil down to, and pivot on the axis of, one thing: imagination — how creative we are in exploiting technology and, equally important, with content. The future will not be a war between new media and traditional media, but between obsolescence and vision. In that sense, it will be far more apocalyptic and transformative than just a bunch of old-line companies going away.

As for his predictions, they seem right on target to me.

Old thinking at journalism school

Alana Taylor, a junior at NYU, has publicly slammed the J-school there for “old thinking.”  This fall, she’s taking what she terms one of the few courses NYU offers undergrads that focuses on new media and she’s sorely disappointed.  The course seems to be more about young news consumers than new media:

I was hoping that NYU would offer more classes where I could understand the importance of digital media, what it means, how to adapt to the new way of reporting, and learn from a professor who understands not only where the Internet is, but where it’s going.

Writing at MediaShift, Taylor admits the course she’s taking, “Reporting Gen Y (a.k.a. Quarterlifers),” doesn’t claim to be a new media class.  But she was surprised to find she was the only student in the room who has a blog.  And she’s irked that the professor insists that everyone bring the hard copy of the New York Times to class every week.

I hoped that perhaps my teacher would be open to the idea of investigating other sources of news from the Internet and discussing how they are reliable or not. I hoped that she wouldn’t refer to podcasts as “being a pain to download” and that being aware of and involved in the digital era wasn’t just a “generational” thing.

I am convinced that I am taking the only old-but-new-but-still-old media class in the country. At this point I may not learn too much I don’t already know about my generation and where it’s taking journalism. But one thing’s for sure — I’m certainly going to gain some insight into what exactly they mean by generation gap.

From what I’ve heard from students and faculty at other schools, Taylor is wrong about at least one thing.  There are still plenty of “old-but-new-but-still-old-media” classes being offered on college campuses across the country.  True?  And what’s it going to take to change that?

Where we get the news

Americans still turn to television as their main source for news, but online news consumption continues to grow while newspaper readership plummets. That’s the headline from the Pew Research Center‘s latest survey on U.S. news habits.

After years of decline, the TV news audience may finally have bottomed out. Overall viewership numbers were basically unchanged from two years ago.  Local TV news remains more popular that either network or cable news–52% regularly watch local news, compared to 29% who watch network news and 39% who watch cable, the only TV source to show a substantial increase.

For print newspapers, however, the news is grim.

This year for the first time in roughly 15 years of asking the question, fewer than half of all Americans report reading a daily newspaper on a regular basis. Only 46% say they read the paper regularly – this number is down from 52% in 2006 and was as high as 71% in 1992. In a similar vein, fewer now report having read a newspaper “yesterday,” a more reliable measure of newspaper readership. Only 34% say they read a newspaper yesterday, down from 40% in 2006.

The numbers are even worse if you exclude online newspaper reading.  The audience for online newspapers based on the “read yesterday” question has grown to 13% from 9% two years ago, but the increase hasn’t been nearly enough to make up for the steep decline in print readership–now just 27% compared to 34% two years ago.

Not surprisingly, news consumption varies widely by age and education.  Well-educated, affluent Americans get at least some of their news online.  The most frequent Internet news consumers, dubbed “Net-Newsers” in the report (median age 35), also tend to watch news online.  “Nearly twice as many regularly watch news clips on the internet as regularly watch nightly network news broadcasts (30% vs. 18%).”

A few more key findings: More young adults are tuning out the news altogether.  About a third of those younger than 25 say they get no news on a typical day, up from a quarter ten years ago.  But those who watch programs like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are better informed about current events (based on test questions) than consumers of cable news, network news or newspapers.  As Greg Mitchell points out in Editor&Publisher, “the national average for answering the three questions was only 18%. But 34% of The Colbert Report fans got them right, with 30% of The Daily Show viewers doing so.”  Still, users of those sources trailed those of other, more traditional news sources: The New Yorker and The Atlantic (48%), NPR (44%), MSNBC’s Hardball (43%), and Hannity & Colmes (42%).

“All-platform journalists” at CNN

As CNN goes, so goes the nation?  We’ll see, but this report from TV Newser reminds us once again that there are jobs to be had if you can work in multiple media.

CNN has announced it is expanding its domestic newsgathering presence while introducing a relatively new title into the lexicon: “all-platform journalists.”

The all-platform journalists will join traditional general assignment reporters and CNN’s roster of show-based correspondents in 10 new U.S. cities. Those cities include Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Houston; Las Vegas; Minneapolis, MN; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham, NC; and Seattle. In most cases, the bureaus are expected to be located at CNN affiliates in those markets.

CNN says technology is making this expansion possible, even in tough economic times.

CNN uses lightweight kits combining cameras, editing and transmission technology (satellite and Internet) into a laptop-based system. The bureaus are being rolled out now, and could be up and running by the end of the year.

(Update: August 20) While it’s adding sojos around the country, CNN is cutting the staff at its Chicago bureau by 25 percent, according to the Chicago Tribune‘s Phil Rosenthal.  The job of Midwest bureau chief has been eliminated, so Chicago-based reporters will now answer to a boss in Los Angeles.

The new “new journalism”

If you’ve been a journalist for more than a few years, the term “new journalism” may bring back old memories.  First used by Tom Wolfe in the late 1960s, it describes the use of literary techniques like narrative, dialogue and central characters in writing news.  It was controversial at the time and found mainly in magazines, but it’s almost commonplace today in major newspapers and long-form television.  Now, the term is back again, with a twist.

The “new” new journalism is an entirely different animal, focused on interaction with users who also generate content.  But it raises many of the same ethical questions as the old new journalism about accuracy and sourcing.  And as Maegan Carberry writes in Editor & Publisher, it can put young journalists at odds with their bosses:

We are coming to professional and personal fruition with the mentality that news is a collective conversation on multi-media platforms, not just what I like to call Brussel Sprouts Journalism, where an editor at a desk serves up content they think we should read – even if we don’t want it. The question of how such a collective conversation will retain the objectives of fairness, factual accuracy and substantive content is the quintessential challenge for millennial media leaders.

Carberry will be writing a regular feature for E&P exploring how young journalists can shape the future of news.