Readers weigh in on newspapers and trust
When it comes to how much our readers trust The Dispatch, we’re doing better than Congress.
Of course, you might say a room full of potted plants has more respect than our politically moribund delegates in Washington, D.C. who are used to being lambasted on the trust factor. But that’s not the subject here today. Instead, I’d like to share what people say in reader surveys about The Dispatch and newspapers in general.
We recently sampled our readers and learned, among other things, that 85 percent of the people responding to our survey would either “bet the farm” on us or believe we’re “usually on the mark” when asked how much they trust The Dispatch. The remaining 15 percent said they take us “with a grain of salt.”
We wish we could claim 100 percent trustworthiness, but considering that the news media overall has its own steady supply of skeptics and doubters, we’ll take that 85 percent and keep trying to get more.
That number is representative of newspaper readers throughout the U.S. Two-thirds of people living in small towns across America trust and depend upon their local newspaper for news and information, according to the National Newspaper Association’s (NNA) latest national newspaper readership survey.
Participants in the NNA survey, which began in 2005 and concluded last year, gave high ratings for accuracy, coverage, quality of writing and fairness of reporting in local print newspapers. In fact, the combined marks in those areas were higher than in 2012.
The NNA, which has been around since 1885, represents more than 2,000 newspapers, most of them weeklies (like The Dispatch) or small dailies. The organization’s mission is to protect, promote and enhance community newspapers. In its Community Newspaper Readership Survey, conducted with the help of journalism researchers at the University of Missouri, 508 households were contacted in communities where a local newspaper with a circulation of 15,000 or less was in business. The results showed those newspapers to be the information leader in their communities.
That’s what The Dispatch strives to be, and the feedback from our reader survey tells us we’re succeeding. Fifty percent of the respondents have been reading us for more than 10 years, and the other 50 percent have been turning our pages for two to 10 years. Seventy-nine percent prefer our print editions, while 21 percent read us online at dispatchnews.com. And 21 percent follow us on Facebook
We were also pleased that 92 percent of the survey participants responded in the affirmative when asked, “Do you notice The Dispatch’s presence in your community?” That’s the connection that keeps any newspaper at the forefront as a source for local news and information.
“It is a good, accurate newspaper that is a positive presence in our community,” a reader wrote in the comments portion of our survey. We appreciate that.
Back to the national survey for a moment: The NNA learned that about one-third of households don’t have Internet access at home. That’s similar to findings from the Census Bureau about slow growth of the Internet in smaller, rural communities. Nevertheless, people who have the technology are using mobile devices to shop, read and communicate, the NNA found. The number with smartphones was 45 percent, and 39 percent said they use the phones to access local news.
The NNA’s president, Robert Williams Jr., publisher of the Blackshear Times in Georgia, sums up the survey results as this: The community newspaper is the dominant information medium in their communities.
“We know that it is very difficult for a good community to survive without a good newspaper, and vice versa,” Williams said. “The high levels of trust, in whatever medium the reader wishes to use – whether mobile, print or Web – demonstrate the value of good community journalism.”
Dispatch editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com and 360-832-4697.