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Survey Shows Americans Still Rely on Newspapers

A woman reads the front pages of U.S. newspapers outside the Newseum in Washington.

Consumers rely on both old and new formats to get their information

Everywhere you turn, there are stories about the rapid ascent of the Internet as Americans’ information medium of choice. The trend line is clearly pointing in that direction, but according to a new national survey, traditional media are far from being outmoded or irrelevant.

The survey, by the independent Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the newspaper-supported Knight Foundation, broke down local information into 16 topic areas and asked people where they learn about each of them.

Turns out, Americans have developed what the Pew Center’s director, Tom Rosenstiel, calls “a complex ecosystem in which people rely on different platforms for different topics.”

More than 80 percent of respondents, for instance, said they still turn to local TV first for breaking news. And 89 percent go there, not to the Web, to get the latest weather information.

And newspapers are a long way from being dead as a go-to information source. Newspapers and newspaper websites ranked first or tied for first as the resource Americans rely on in 11 of the 16 key categories - including crime, taxes, and the arts.

Even the oldest communication form of all - word of mouth - ranked second to local TV as respondents’ preferred source of information about their communities.

At the same time, according to the Pew-Knight report, “nearly half of adults occasionally now get local information on mobile devices, though it is still largely a supplemental platform for them.”

The survey of 2,251 American adults is one of the first of nationwide scope that clearly shows the growing complexity of the media landscape, and the willingness - even eagerness - with which consumers are relying on both old and new formats to get their information.