How Americans get their news and trust in local news sources has immense importance to government and criminal justice agencies. Per Pew, while most people get their news from traditional sources and their digital outlets, it’s interesting as to how many get their news from government agencies and local organizations.
Citizens get their news from a variety of sources thus an individual may read a morning newspaper, listen to the news via a radio station while driving to work, watch the news on a television station in the evening, and go online to a law enforcement agency for the latest crime statistics.
What This Means
I spent thirty years in media and public relations for national and state law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.
Throughout my career, I offered self-produced television shows and video podcasts, radio shows and audio podcasts plus blog articles that appeared in national publications placed on our websites. We created short television shows with Comcast and offered them as video podcasts. We participated in radio and television public affairs shows. We created user-friendly websites. In short, we produced our own news coverage that conveniently answered a multitude of questions and concerns from the public and interested practitioners.
We won a wide array of national and regional awards for best podcasts, best audio, best television shows, and many others. See my book, “Success With The Media” at Amazon for details as to proactive and reactive media strategies.
This means that if done properly, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have relatively inexpensive products that don’t require a ton of technical know-how to communicate directly with the public. If done ethically, respectfully and inclusively, government agencies have the tools to almost instantly communicate with the public.
This can be especially important for emergency communications and rumor control.
We are no longer dependent on the media to tell our story. But it’s still vitally important to have a respectful and cooperative relationship with traditional media sources.
Why People Listen To Us
Everything is based on credibility. People trust law enforcement, Trust and Cops. Because they see parole and probation, corrections and the court as experts, what they say carries an importance. People may trust local government agencies and find them to be more credible than other sources.
Per Pew, “…the public also has high expectations for their area news providers when it comes to their capacity to be a genuine part of the community. An overwhelming majority of adults say it is at least somewhat important for journalists to understand their community’s history (85%) and to be personally engaged with their local area (81%), and at least four-in-ten deem each very important.”
Per Pew, “A majority of Americans say local journalists should not share their views about local issues: 61%, compared with 36% who say they should.” This has real implications for government-produced audio, video, websites, and news. Whatever we create, it has to be objective, factual and honest. I often invited our detractors to participate in our productions.
How People Get News
The primary sources are radio and television stations. But 56 percent get news from local government agencies, only 54 percent from daily newspapers.
Where People Get Their News
Again, radio and television are the lead sources followed by 68 percent for daily newspapers. But 64 percent get their news from local government.
Local organizations (i.e., community groups) rank a tad higher in both categories.
As expected, it’s a matter of the frequency of access and traditional news sources lead this category.
Crime Tops The List
Weather tops the list of concerns but crime is the number one news topic followed by traffic. Respondents consider it important to their daily lives. Crime is considered a priority topic but it ranks fourth as to ease of access or a subject that’s “very easy to stay informed about.” That presents an opportunity for justice agencies to fill the gap.
The Bottom Line?
Local government organizations are a major source of news. So are local organizations. It’s an opportunity worth considering.
For more on media and criminal justice issues, see Crime in America
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