The Evolving Ways in How People Consume the News

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COLUMBIA - The Media Insight Project released a survey last month that contradicted many of the traditional statements about how and where people get their news.

The group conducted a phone survey in January and February with 1,492 Americans to see where they go to look for information.

The survey found the topic of the story and how fast or slow an organization got the information to its audience was how people determined where they go to look for those stories.

The Missouri School of Journalism's Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, Lynda Kraxberger, agrees with this statement but also believes people select certain news outlets based on how they initially found out the information .

"It's not just the topic that determines where a person goes. It also has to do with how they're finding out about the news in the first place," Kraxberger said.

The Director of Community Outreach for the Columbia Missourian, Joy Mayer, said having a wide variety of places to look for different stories also affects where people choose to go.

"The more options people have for getting their news, the less loyalty they're going to have to specific brands," Mayer said. "If you're searching for it all online it matters less which organization gave it to you."

The research also found that out of the 1,492 people interviewed, 60 percent of those people found it easier to keep up with news today than five years ago. Twenty seven percent saw no real difference, 12 percent thought it was harder today and one percent didn't know.

"It's easier to keep up with news now in terms of they can get news faster anytime they want it and on the go, but I think there's a bigger challenge involved with that and that's information overload," Kraxberger said.

Mayer agreed it's easier but also harder at the same time.

"I think it's easier to keep up with the news now because it's everywhere and it would be hard to stay away from the news, but I also think it's more difficult because it's harder to cut through the noise," Mayer said.

One of the reasons why there are hundreds of different stories and information all around us could be because we're known as the on-demand generation.

"On-demand really is 'I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it,' and even if I know that there is something available online, if there is something that makes it easier for me to get when I'm on the go, or during my commute or when I'm on my way to class I will take that easier way," Kraxberger said. 

KOMU 8 News Director Stacey Woelfel also agreed with Kraxberger's definition but added it's part of the culture and generational change brought on by technology.

But he says this need for information immediately after something happens or even while something is happening leaves room for fact errors and incorrect information being released to the public.

"It hurts us in that because it's a competition and a business competition, so people rush to be the first for the bragging points for that and hope they gain more audience that way and they're often wrong," Woelfel said.

Kraxberger believes this is the most concerning aspect about journalism.

"Because I think a lot of people are consuming information without being critical consumers and thoughtful consumers of where that information came from and who produced that information to begin with," Kraxberger said.