Report: Young Adults Avoiding Newspapers — and Other News Outlets

By: Joe Strupp

Americans younger than 30 are reading newspapers — and consuming news in all forms — less and less on a regular basis than their older counterparts, according to a new survey, which revealed teen-agers with the worst regular news habits.

The study from the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University actually included two polls. The first sampled 1,298 adults, with alightly more than half between 18 and 30 years of age and the rest 31 and older. The second survey polled about 503 teens, from 12 to 17 years old.

The findings showed that while 35% of “older adults,” those 31 and older, read a newspaper everyday, just 16% of “young adults,” who were between 18 and 30, did so. Of the teen-agers, only 9% said they read a daily paper, with 46% saying they hardly ever touched a paper or never did.

“Careful assessments of young adults’ news habits are essential,” the report stated. “Young people’s interest in news will affect economic vitality of news organizations and thus their ability to invest in quality journalism.”

The report also described the findings as presenting “a relatively dim picture of young Americans’ interest in daily news.” In other words: It’s not just newspapers. Younger people appear to just be less interested, even in obtaining news on the Internet, or they feel they are learning enough from simply eavesdropping on information or surfing through it.

While 47% of older adults said they read “quite a few stories” in the paper, 32% of young adults did and just 28% of teens. That compares to 57% of older adults who watched most of a national television newscast and 37% of young adults who did. At least 40% of teens indicated watching most of those news casts.

The Internet, however, did not seem to be stealing most youngsters from print, with just 32% of teens saying they went to the Web to “seek out news,” compared to 46% of young adults and some 55% of older adults.

The study also sought to find out how aware respondents were of top stories of the day. While 62% of older adults could show an awareness of what was deemed the top story, only 43% of young adults could. Teens were not asked about this issue.

The report also indicated that newspapers were almost never the first source of a major news story, with just 9% of older adults saying they had seen something first in the paper, and only 4% of young adults. A mere 3% of teens indicted a newspaper was their first source. Television was the majority first source across all ages, with 62% of older adults citing it, 47% of young adults, and 41% of teens.

Eighteen percent of teens and young adults said the Internet was a first source of news for a specific top story, with 9% of older adults citing it. But the report did not specify which, if any, of those were newspaper Web sites.

Interestingly, after television, most teens, 28%, said they had first heard about a major story from another person.

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