Only On Sunday? p. 38

By: MARK FITZGERALD MANY AMERICANS SAY their local daily paper is a fair, accurate and believable news source used by people they respect ? but if it stopped publishing during the week they wouldn't miss it.
A major industry study ? more of which will be released at the Newspaper Association of America convention in Chicago starting April 27 ? finds that people increasingly look on the daily newspaper as a once a week thing.
"The Sunday paper tends to be a blockbuster," said John Bartomoleo, a principal of Clark, Martire & Bartomoleo Inc., which prepared the study for NAA and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Bartomoleo and other industry figures discussed some of the results at ASNE's recent annual convention in Washington, D.C. The biggest result is the increasing evidence that the public is concentrating its newspaper reading on the Sunday paper.
For instance, while about seven of 10 U.S. adults read the paper on an average Sunday, just six of 10 read a daily paper during an average weekday.
And it is only the Sunday paper that commands reader loyalty, the survey found.
While the survey indicated the Sunday paper would be the news medium most missed if it were no longer around, the weekday paper would be the news medium least missed.
"As much as we may not want to discuss it, the fact is more readers would miss their local TV news program than their weekday paper," said Jennie Rae Buckner, editor the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.
The survey of 3,000 people uncovered public attitudes about newspapers that amount to double-edged swords.
On the one hand, people are generally satisfied with their daily paper: Nearly six out of 10 Americans say they are "extremely" or "very" satisfied with it.
And Americans identify a newspaper more than any other medium as the news source used by people they respect.
Ask them about the usefulness of various media, and people will say it is the newspaper that does the best job in many specific areas.
But there are also troubling gaps in public
"When we ask them about specific aspects of utility, we tend to win ? and win big," Bartomoleo said. But when respondents were asked to make a general evaluation, newspapers did not do so well, he added.
Newspapers also tended to be regarded as more helpful and authoritative when it comes to understanding the news and issues ? yet not as helpful and authoritative as the public expects them to be.
For instance, the survey asked respondents to rate the importance of several media characteristics, and then to pick the medium that did the best job in that area.
Newspapers had the biggest gaps of any medium when it came to being fair (a gap of 25%), accurate (off 23%) and believable (off 16%).
"The good news is, no medium owns this franchise of being the most authoritative source," Bartolomeo said.
Respondents repeatedly urged newspapers to "become more intensely local than ever before," editor Buckner said.
"As improved as we may find our journalism," she said, "it isn't good enough in our readers' minds."
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?copyright Editor & Publisher- April 26, 1997.


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