Television

Traditional news media still American's first source for big stories: report

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MUMBAI: Americans still support the idea of a free press as a watchdog on the government, and turn to traditional news sources on major news stories despite skepticism about bias in the news media, reveals the findings in the first segment of the 2009 State of the First Amendment national survey, conducted by the First Amendment Center.

While new innovations such as Twitter have attracted users and headlines, television and other traditional news media remain the dominant source for Americans on major new stories, the survey finds.

Television was the first source for major news stories for about half of all responding (49 per cent), followed by the Internet at 15 per cent, radio at 13 per cent and newspapers at 10 per cent– which places traditional news media (TV, radio and newspapers) as the first source for 72 per cent of Americans. Twitter, e-mails and social-networking sites each were named by 1 per cent of those responding.

Similarly, for 48 per cent of Americans TV is the primary source for followup reports on those news stories, followed by the Internet at 29% and newspapers at nine per cent.

This first segment of the State of the First Amendment 2009 survey reports how Americans view their First Amendment freedoms, as well as the reach and credibility of emerging news media. Additional segments this year will survey public opinion on specific First Amendment issues.

Other results:

71 per cent still see a free press as a necessary “watchdog on government”, though nearly half of those responding (49 per cent) strongly disagreed with the statement that the news media reports on news without bias.

Just three per cent of those who had an opinion on Twitter found it a “very reliable source of news” and 14 per cent considered it “somewhat reliable". 21 per cent said “not reliable at all” and 13 per cent said “not too reliable".

Many Americans have yet to “tweet”: 49 per cent of those responding didn’t know enough about Twitter to have formed an opinion. The “reliability rating” rose only marginally among the younger groups in the survey: for those ages 18-35, 3.3 per cent said “very reliable", while it was three per cent for those ages 36-49. For older groups, the ratings fell 1.9 per cent for those aged 50-64, and 1.3 per cent for those aged 65 and older.

Just four per cent of those questioned could name “petition” as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment, the lowest for any of the five freedoms named in its 45 words.

Only freedom of speech was named by more than half of the respondents, 55 per cent freedoms of religion, press and assembly were named by less than 20 per cent of those responding.

Nearly one in five Americans (19 per cent) saw the First Amendment as “going too far” in the rights it guarantees.

First Amendment Center VP, executive director Gene Policinski says, “The findings in this first segment of the 2009 survey suggest that while new forms of obtaining information, including Twitter and social media, are much discussed and growing in use, most Americans continue to rely on the same news organisations — including the news reports picked up by online news providers — on which they have relied for decades. Clearly, emerging media are novel and are finding an audience, but there still is room for growth on the credibility side.”

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