By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Another mass shooting underscores why people are turning away from news

The front page of today’s Portland Press Herald

Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center reported the results of a survey that found news consumption fell significantly between 2016 and 2022: “In 2016, 51% of U.S. adults said they followed the news all or most of the time. But that share fell to 38% in 2022, the most recent time we asked this question.”

Now we are in a moment of real horror and crisis. From war in Ukraine to Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel to the retaliatory response that’s now under way; from chaos in Washington to another terrible mass shooting, this time in Lewiston, Maine — it’s no wonder that people are tuning out. Who can process all this?

With the shooter in Lewiston still at large, it’s a good time to take another look at “The Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook,” compiled in 2013 after an earlier mass shooting. Given that initial reports are often wrong, there’s little reason to watch the story unfold in real time. Catch the top of the hour if you must, but otherwise wait for something more comprehensive and vetted.

And here are some Maine-based sources of coverage:

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5 Comments

  1. Rae Francoeur

    This is a real help, Dan. Thank you for posting. And your reporting is sadly true. I fight the urge to tune out every single day and I’m a journalist.

  2. Mark

    All 3 major Portland TV stations were being streamed on the networks’ free news services. The coverage was interesting and often reflected a neighborhood’s shock and surprise better than the national anchors and their contact list of “experts.”

  3. Regarding the latest mass shooting: where did the mass murderer get his weapon? In every mass shooting from now on that should be the second headline.

  4. Stephen R Nelson

    Is it the mass shootings or Donald Trump?

    From 1941 to 1945 to 1953, we had World War 2, more knowledge of the European Holocaust and another war in Korea on radio, newsreels and in newspapers. In the 1960s and 1970s we had the Vietnam War and Watergate on TV and newspapers, as well as assassinations. Later on, we got September 11 and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All physically and/or emotionally violent episodes in US history. Most of that was over by 2016, and mass shootings started to get a lot of coverage with Columbine in 1995. Did news consumption go down while all that was going on?

    You are citing a study for the time period 2016 to 2022. It states that fewer Republicans are watching. I imagine many of them are angry about the coverage of Trump’s impeachments and his other failures, and then the eventual investigations. So they don’t watch or read anymore. And some Democrats actually like Trump also. So I question your hypothesis.

  5. Calli Remillard

    WOW that statistic is startling, but I also understand the urge to tune out. I’m a journalist and I find myself fighting the urge almost daily… it’s really a balancing act and about knowing when it’s time to log off (at least for me!)

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