Americans find apps useful for local news, but don’t value papers, poll finds

Almost half of Americans use cell phones or tablet computers to get their local news, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. But 69 percent of those surveyed said the loss of their local paper would have little or no impact on their life.

At Elon University, between students, faculty and staff, the way people get their news varies.

“I’m from D.C., so I read the Washington Post because my mom reads it,” said sophomore Nina Boston. “She reads it every day, so I read it every day. But here I don’t really read newspapers, to be honest.”

Irene Gibson, a circulation clerk in the library, said she uses both online and print sources to get her news every day.

“I look online at the newspapers, but I also like paper, so I’ll usually look again at the newspapers when I go home,” Gibson said.

For others, having a smart phone can give them access to local news any time.

Associate Professor of Communications Rich Landesberg has on his iPhone the New York Times and CNN apps. On his tablet, he has those as well as the Associated Press, WRAL and News and Observer apps.

Pew’s data shows 42 percent of Americans get local weather and 37 percent get material about restaurants when using cell phones or tablets. Landesberg uses his apps for a broader reasons, and said he would miss the local paper if it were to shut down.

“I would miss knowing what’s going on in my community, looking at the crime report, looking at the reviews of restaurants, and looking at the ads to see what’s for sale in my neighborhood,” Landesberg said.

Tom Rosenstiel, the director of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, said that few people pay for online news at this point, but the use of apps is abundant.

“Tablet penetration is growing so rapidly—as quickly as any device we have seen to date—it will be fascinating to see whether that changes whether people will pay for content online, but for now it hasn’t happened,” Rosenstiel said.

Others on Elon’s campus said they don’t pay for their news, generally.

“Right now, I probably wouldn’t pay, but probably when I’m older,” said junior Kate MacKinnon.

Freshman Caroline Klidonas said she uses her Android phone occasionally for news.

“I can’t say I check it regularly,” Klidonas said. “I don’t pay anything for it.”

But professionals at local newspapers, especially in smaller communities, say their readers still appreciate what they offer—a niche market.

Robert Long, the managing editor of The Times Record in Brunswick, Maine, said that if local newspapers disappear, then the online content that’s taken from them and published on blogs and aggregators would disappear, as well. The Times Record is a small afternoon daily.

“In a small community like the Mid-coast region, I hear every day that people place great value on the newspaper,” Long said. “Community newspapers like The Times Record provide people with local content they can’t get anywhere else — namely, news about what’s going on in schools, municipal government and their neighborhoods.”

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