WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The Unbalanced Diet of News Audiences

Jul 1, 2014

The Shop Talk panelists discuss why audiences claim to desire serious news but usually seek out lighter fare.

The issue was the subject of an article in The Atlantic by Derek Thompson. Panelist Rich Egger especially enjoyed this line from the piece:

“Ask readers what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy.”

He said while people probably recognize the value of hard news, they don’t necessarily want to be bothered with it.

Panelist Lisa Kernek credited Thompson with avoiding the urge to criticize news consumers for the choices they make.  She said people want something familiar when they’re stressed, which is why audiences sometimes choose to avoid serious stories.

Kernek also pointed out there has been a longstanding debate in the news industry over whether to give audiences what they need or what they want.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton believes many people are simply seeking out a distraction when they click on a web story about celebrity gossip or easy-to-read articles that are nothing more than a list.

Crighton also said Internet audiences are different than newspaper or broadcast audiences and they seek out information in a different way.