This is a polished version of my opening remarks for a session at ONA20 moderated by Cindy Royal, who is Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University where she works on digital and data-driven media skills and concepts.
Journalism exists in the context of its audience, both in terms of mission and in terms of sustainability, whether as business or non-profit.
The pandemic has powerfully demonstrated journalism’s value.
Reporters have published important independent investigations into governments’ handling of the crisis.
More broadly, our research documents that those who follow the news simply know more about the pandemic. In most countries we surveyed in April, using news organisations as a source of information about coronavirus was associated with a statistically significant increase in coronavirus knowledge.
And recently, as part of our UK COVID-19 news and information project, we found that a majority of 56% of Brits say that the news media have helped them understand the pandemic, and 61% say that the news media has helped explain what they can do in response to it.
However we need to recognize that much of the public feel journalism falls short of their expectations, and even in a crisis like this have not engaged extensively with the news. In the UK, our work suggests that the initial surge in news use quickly faded, news avoidance grew throughout the crisis, and more than a third think news coverage has made the coronavirus crisis worse. (Worse!) Only 7% think journalism has made things better.
It’s important to keep in mind that news is a small percentage of the time people spend online.
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