No News Is Not Good News

For years now, there's been a great deal of hand-wringing about the decline in newspaper readership. Baby-boomers and the MTV generation, it was said, prefer to get their news from TV.

Now comes a new study that shows TV-news viewership has fallen precipitously in the last three years. The Pew Center for The People and The Press found that only 42% of those surveyed said they watch network evening news "regularly." Three years ago that figure was 60%. Viewership of TV news magazines and local news also fell.

Newspaper readership rose slightly over the last year, the survey said, with 50% saying they read a newspaper "yesterday," compared with 45% in March 1995. Radio-news listenership stayed level, perhaps because people can listen during other activities.

Possible causes of the downturn in TV-news audience: People are too busy; the wide choice of cable-TV channels draws them away from news; they spend more time with computers; and the news doesn't interest them.

If people are getting less "quality" news, that's not good. Democracy can't function if large segments of the population aren't even paying attention. Journalists - including us - must ponder how better to reach the public.

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