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May 10, 2019, 10:54 a.m.
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LINK: www.pewresearch.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   May 10, 2019

Seventy-eight percent of Americans have never spoken with a local journalist at all, according to data highlighted by Pew on Friday — but of the 21 percent who say they have (1 percent didn’t answer), they are more likely to be white, college-educated, and older.

From Pew:

About 23% of whites have had this kind of interaction, compared with 19% of blacks and 14% of Hispanics, according to the survey, conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 8, 2018, among nearly 35,000 U.S. adults.

Older Americans are also more likely to have had personal contact with a local journalist: A quarter of U.S. adults ages 65 and over have done so, compared with 17% of those ages 18 to 29. (This may not come as a surprise: Since the question asked whether Americans have “ever” spoken to a local journalist, older adults have had more time — and a greater chance — to interact with a local reporter.)…

Educational attainment and income are also tied to Americans’ likelihood of having talked with local news media. The highly educated — those with at least a college degree — are about twice as likely as those with a high school degree or less to have spoken with a local journalist (27% vs. 14%, respectively). And while 26% of those with an income of $75,000 or more have spoken with a local journalist, the share falls to 20% of those who earn between $30,000 and $74,999 and 17% of those who make less than $30,000.

Pew also found that, in 2018, fewer Americans said they had spoken with a local journalist than said the same thing in 2016 — which could be due to a combination of factors, most obviously the fact that there are fewer local journalists to go around than there used to be. Pew also suggests that time-pressed reporters might be relying more on social media — seeing what people are tweeting about a given topic — to represent the public’s voice on issues in the news.

It’s worth noting that these results differ depending on what part of the United States you live in. Here in Boston and in Omaha, 25 percent of those surveyed report having talked to a local reporter; that number is only 17 percent in Chicago and Phoenix, 15 percent in New Orleans, Honolulu, and Miami, and 14 percent in Dallas. (You can search for your city’s results on this and a host of other news issues here.)

If you’re a local journalist looking at these numbers and wondering how to do better, a guide that the Center for Journalism Ethics published this week offers tips on how journalists can make their community interactions less “extractive” and more “morally justifiable.”

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