Recent media news headlines have briefly sucked the digital discourse around new and legacy media back into the reductive binary of pro- and anti-Internet.
While asking whether the Internet helps or hurts journalism is about as useful as asking if technology is good or bad, the Pew Research Internet Project does have a study out today that comes down pretty clearly on one side.
The survey of 1,066 internet users shows that 87% of online adults say the internet and cell phones have improved their ability to learn new things, including 53% who say it has improved this “a lot.” Internet users under age 50, those in higher income households, and those with higher educational attainment are especially likely to say the internet and cell phones help them “a lot” when it comes to learning new things.
Asked if they enjoy having so much information at their fingertips or if they feel overloaded, 72% of internet users report they like having so much information, while just 26% say they feel overloaded.
News: Substantial majorities also feel better informed about national news (75%), international news (74%), and pop culture (72%) because of these tools.
Not only do individual Americans feel more personally informed because of the Internet, but a majority also believe that society at large is better informed. Interestingly, survey respondents generally felt that the Internet improved their knowledge of distant topics — pop stars and international news — more than it increased their understanding of things like local news or civic issues. 60 percent of those surveyed said they felt better informed about local news after the Internet, while 74 percent and 75 percent felt mobile phones and the Internet made them better informed about international and national news, respectively.
Media news tends to focus on the national narrative — BuzzFeed versus The New York Times versus whoever’s spending millions of dollars to build a huge new website this week. But despite efforts of programs like the Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge, the tougher nut to crack for the Internet seems to be disseminating information on a more granular level.