Trevira/FlickrAmericans no longer rely on TV for their political news.
When it comes to political news on TV, Californians are tuning out.
A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, "Californians' News and Information Sources," shows that only 37 percent of Californians rely on television for political news. That's down from 47 percent in 2007, the last time PPIC conducted a similar poll.
Even more striking is the continuing decline in the number of Californians who watch local television for their political news: only 22 percent, compared to 29 percent three years ago.
This verifies what political observers have been noticing for a while – that the long tail of the media allows the public to ingest news from a variety of niche sources, most noticeably blogs and other web sources.
Despite their lower numbers in the PPIC survey, television stations can't be easily dismissed as an insignificant source of news information.
My colleague, Robert Salladay, drew my attention to a fascinating article in the Columbia Journalism Review article by Joel Meares titled "Not Watching Sacramento" that looked into California's incredible shrinking press corps.
Few have been hit harder by California’s newspaper woes than the reporters charged with covering state government. The (LA) Times’s bureau is down from 12 reporters in 1998 to nine today, including a blogger and columnist. The San Francisco Chronicle has halved its capitol staff. Smaller papers like The Stockton Record and The Bakersfield California have shut their bureaus. The Sacramento Bee remains reasonably robust, but it’s an exception. More common are stories like ... the (Orange County) Register’s – bureaus shrinking and reporters fleeing for retirement, new beats, new papers and new careers; more than 20 have taken jobs with the government they once covered.
The Sacramento Bee's Dan Morain told CJR that the Capitol press corps in Sacramento is "probably down 65 percent – way beyond decimation." In real numbers, that probably means a shrinkage from about 80 full-time reporters and editors in 1999 to just 35 today.
As Meares correctly notes, "what goes uncovered is tangibly hard to measure." But less coverage must translate into less political news is available to Californians – regardless of what medium they use to access it.
"Without an experienced and robust press corps beyond that handful of publications, it’s not just livelihoods, bureaus and profits that are being lost – it’s democracy itself," Meares writes.
Here are details from the PPIC report showing changes in where Californians say they get information "about what is happening in politics today."
Public Policy Institute of California