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Dan Ronco

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The Internet Has Become Our Primary News Source
By Dan Ronco
Last edited: Friday, March 21, 2008
Posted: Friday, March 21, 2008

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The Internet has become our primary news source, but is it providing accurate, high quality information?

Its official. The Internet has surpassed newspapers, television and radio as the primary source of news for Americans, according to the results of a new We Media/Zogby Interactive survey. Not exactly shocking for those of us working the net full-time.

According to the survey, nearly half of all respondents (48%) said the Internet was their primary source of news, up from 40% last year. As you would expect, younger adults were more likely to name the net as their chief source of news. Specifically, 55% of those age 18-29 say they get most of their news and information online, compared to only 35% of seniors (65 and older). Actually, I was surprised that so many seniors are online; the stereotype is that older Americans can’t figure out the net. This survey shows that seniors are picking up on the value of being online.

It appears that dissatisfaction with current journalism is a major factor driving people to the Internet. Fully two-thirds of the respondents said that traditional journalism is out of touch with what they want from the news. As you might guess, Republicans (79%) and political independents (75%) are quite dissatisfied with traditional journalism. Those who identify themselves as “very conservative” were among the most dissatisfied; 89% view traditional journalism as out of touch. With most of the mainstream press leaning left, these levels of disenchantment don’t come as a surprise. However, it is a surprise that half of all Democrats also expressed similar concerns. The complaints from conservatives and others, which have been growing for a couple of decades, have, unfortunately, been largely ignored by the newspapers. No wonder they are losing readers.

Although the traditional press is losing ground, it’s still important. Here’s how Americans rated their news sources in terms of importance: websites (86%), television (77%), radio (74%), newspapers (70%) and blogs (38%). Although blogs trail the pack, the explosion in blogging will push it past the other outlets in a couple of years, in my opinion.

It is in the best interests of our nation that we have high-quality, diversified sources of news and information. I’m pleased that the Internet has become so important, but I hope that television, radio and newspapers continue to play an important role. I’m most concerned about newspapers, and not just because I love the written word. Newspapers suffer because they tend to be less current, even when online, than the other sources. However, they generally provide more in-depth coverage, which is necessary for a reader to develop a thorough understanding of a story.

Diversified sources of information are also critical from a national security perspective. Both our national economy and, to an extent, our military are based upon having fast, up-to-date communications. Although the Internet is our most important means of communications, it is also so the most vulnerable. A technically sophisticated enemy might be able to release multiple, deadly viruses simultaneously into the net and take down most of our communications. In addition, as artificial intelligence grows ever more sophisticated, our vulnerability to an intelligent virus increases. My novel PeaceMaker dramatizes this potential catastrophe.

My take from this survey is that the Internet is already our primary source of news and information, and that it is destined to grow in importance. However, dissatisfaction with current journalism is high, so we are getting a great deal of news, but is it the news we want? Quantity isn’t sufficient, quality is just as important. It’s not clear to me how quality will improve, given the fixed views of a left-leaning press.

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