Media and journalism issues

News avoidance still an ongoing problem – Reuters 2024 Digital News Report

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News avoidance still an ongoing problem – Reuters 2024 Digital News Report
The Reuters 2024 Digital News Report finds an increasing number of people are selectively disengaging from the news, while interest in news has stabilized

The downward trend of interest in the news appears to be slowing down, with the number of news-interested individuals in countries such as Finland, the Netherlands, and South Korea going up or equalizing, according to the 2024 Digital News Report from Reuters.

Although there are signs of stability, the problem remains unresolved on a global scale, especially in comparison to 2015. Countries like Spain have seen as much as a 33% drop in the proportion of people interested in the news over the past decade. It was also noted that women and children are likely to have this issue. 

Despite the stable news interest, the number of people selectively avoiding the news has increased significantly to 39% compared to last year’s already-high 36%. The countries with the most notable rises are Ireland (+10%), Spain (+8%), and Italy (+7%), according to the report. Aside from the rise of news avoidance, the report similarly states a rise in the number of individuals feeling worn out by the news, up from 28% in 2019. Per country, 2,000 individuals were asked for this survey, with Finland (1,509) being an exception for interest in news.

As the report outlines, the main reason for this trend is the news’ exceedingly repetitive and depressing nature. As described by an unnamed male respondent from the UK, “The sheer volume of information is overwhelming. We can be left feeling helpless in the face of another remote disaster, leaving you feeling guilty and impotent.”

Last year, the Washington Post cited the same problem with an ever-growing number of people turning away from the news, citing the negativity as the full thrust behind their decisions. The article also mentioned how publications primarily tailoring their content to the “politically interested” and “privileged” have driven the less privileged or informed away. 

Due to the continuous increase in news avoidance, Reuters surveyed 94,943 users on what they needed out of an article. This data was then analyzed through the User Needs Priority Index (UNPI), which compiled people’s perceptions of the most important traits an article must have to ensure quality and urgency. 

According to the survey, readers valued being given additional perspective the most with a 7.6 UNPI, followed by being inspired at 6.5, being updated at 5.8, and being educated at 5.4. The key takeaway is that people prefer to feel uplifted by the news while being informed of a side of the world that they were unaware of. 

To further shed light on the reasons behind selective news avoidance, Reuters suggested using a topic-based approach in 43 markets. Reuters demonstrated the types of news topics preferred by each demographic – age and sex. In the survey of age, the study split into five brackets: 18-24 (9398), 25-34 (14,936), 35-44 (15,356), 45-54 (14942), 55+ (32,188). On the other hand, for age, the answers were divided into four: female (44,274), male (44,535), female under 35 (11,956), and male under 35 (12,378). Both categories did not ask these questions in Chile, Mexico, Kenya, and Nigeria. 

According to the report, young individuals and women were seen to be less interested in politics, having their attention placed more towards news about the environment and climate change. However, people from an older age bracket gravitated more towards political news, with 61% being interested. A commonality between all demographics nonetheless is that the majority were primarily concerned with their local news.

Reuters also asked people from the UK whether the current news coverage was meeting those interests. The survey discovered that people believed sports news and political news were generally well-served. On the other hand, the number of times stories about the local news, environment, and social justice were featured felt lacking.

Outside of the UK, people found that there was not a crisis in local news, as reported by Reuters. More than 60% of the proportions that were interested in the local news felt satisfied in Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, countries like the UK, Australia, Japan, Portugal, and Bulgaria significantly perceived their interests in local news were under the threshold. The proportion of satisfied people in those countries dropped below 60%, with Japan being the lowest at a near 40%. – Rav Ayag/

Rav Ayag is a Tech and Features intern at Rappler. He is an incoming senior at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Creative Writing program. 

This story was vetted by a reporter and an editor.

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