News avoidance research has been hampered by confusion about how to define and operationalize the concept. Here we intervene in two ongoing debates: first, what is the relationship between selective news avoidance—that is, when people say they sometimes or often avoid news—and overall rates of news consumption? Second, how well do terms intended to distinguish between types of news avoidance based on underlying motivations, such as “intentional” vs. “unintentional” or “news non-use,” capture the lived experiences of people who consistently consume little news? We examine these questions using the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report survey data from 46 media markets, as well as interviews with 108 people who consume little-to-no news in the UK, US, and Spain. Survey results show that most people who selectively avoid news consume almost as much news as those who do not, while interviews show that distinguishing types of news avoiders based solely on stated motivations poorly captures how media habits develop through a mix of deliberate choices and socially constructed preferences. We conclude that categorizing news avoiders based on motivations risks misunderstanding the kind of news avoidance that matters most from a normative standpoint: that which is linked with low news consumption.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by Google UK as part of the Google News Initiative through the Digital News Project grant held by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. Grant number: CTR00220.
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- in-depth interviews
- intentional news avoidance
- News avoidance
- news consumption
- qualitative audience research
- unintentional news avoidance