The local news landscape in America is going through profound changes as both news consumers and producers continue to adapt to a more digital news environment. PEW Research Center recently asked U.S. adults about the ways they access local news, as well as their attitudes toward local journalism, finding that:

* A growing share of Americans prefer to get local news online, while fewer are getting news on TV or in print. And newspapers are no longer primarily consumed as a print product – the majority of readers of local daily newspapers now access them digitally.

* The share of U.S. adults who say they are paying close attention to local news has dropped since the last major survey  in 2018, mirroring declining attention to national news.

* Americans still see value in local news and local journalists. A large majority say local news outlets are at least somewhat important to the well-being of their local community. Most people also say local journalists are in touch with their communities and that their local news media perform well at several aspects of their jobs, such as reporting the news accurately.

* At the same time, a relatively small share of Americans (15%) say they have paid for local news in the last year. And many seem unaware of the major financial challenges facing local news: A 63% majority (albeit a smaller majority than in 2018) say they think their local news outlets are doing very or somewhat well financially.

* Majorities of both major parties say local media in their area are doing their jobs well. While Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are slightly less positive than Democrats and Democratic leaners in their opinions of local media, views of local news don’t have the same stark political divides that exist within Americans’ opinions about national media.

* Most Americans say local journalists should remain neutral on issues in their community, but a substantial minority say local journalists should take a more active role. About three-in-ten say local journalists should advocate for change in their communities, a view that’s especially common among Democrats and younger adults.

At a time when most local news outlets are struggling and Americans’ trust in the news media has waned, the vast majority of U.S. adults (85%) say local news outlets are at least somewhat important to the well-being of their local community. 44% say local journalism is extremely or very important to their community

About seven-in-ten U.S. adults (69%) say that local journalists in their area are mostly in touch with their community, up from 63% who said this in 2018. And most Americans also say their local news organizations are doing well at four key roles:

* Reporting news accurately (71%)

* Covering the most important stories (68%)

* Being transparent (63%)

* Keeping an eye on local political leaders (61%).

These are relatively positive views compared with how Americans see news organizations more broadly.

What’s more, views toward local news are not as politically polarized as Americans’ opinions about the news media overall. While Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are not quite as positive as Democrats and Democratic leaners in some of their assessments of local journalists, most Republicans still say the local media in their area are doing their jobs well.

Despite these positive views toward local news organizations, there are signs that Americans are engaging less with local journalism than they used to.

The share of Americans who say they follow local news very closely has fallen by 15 percentage points since 2016 (from 37% to 22%). Most U.S. adults still say they follow local news at least somewhat closely (66%), but this figure also has dropped in recent years.

This trend is not unique to local news – Americans’ attention to national and international news also has declined.

The ways in which Americans access local news are changing, reflecting an increasingly digital landscape – and matching patterns in overall news consumption habits.

* Fewer people now say they prefer to get local news through a television set (32%, down from 41% who said the same in 2018).

* Americans are now more likely to say they prefer to get local news online, either through news websites (26%) or social media (23%). Both of these numbers have increased in recent years.

* Smaller shares prefer getting their local news from a print newspaper or on the radio (9% each).

The types of sources Americans are turning to are changing as well:

* While local television stations are still the most common source of local news beyond friends, family and neighbors, the share who often or sometimes get news there has declined from 70% to 64% in recent years.

* Online forums, such as Facebook groups or the Nextdoor app, have become a more common destination for local news: 52% of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes get local news from these types of forums, up 14 percentage points from 2018. This is on par with the percentage who get local news at least sometimes from local radio stations.

* Meanwhile, a third of Americans say they at least sometimes get local news from a daily newspaper, regardless of whether it is accessed via print, online or through a social media website – down 10 points from 2018. The share of Americans who get local news from newspapers is now roughly on par with the share who get local news from local government agencies (35%) or local newsletters or Listservs (31%).

Not only are fewer Americans getting local news from newspapers, but local daily newspapers are now more likely to be accessed online than in print.

 31% of those who get news from daily newspapers do so via print, while far more (66%) do so digitally, whether through websites, apps, emails or social media posts that include content from the paper.

* In 2018, just over half of those who got news from local daily newspapers (54%) did so from print, and 43% did so via a website, app, email or social media site.

There is a similar move toward digital access for local TV stations, though local TV news is still mostly consumed through a TV set.

* In 2024, 62% of those getting news from local TV stations do so through a television, compared with 37% who do so through one of the digital pathways.

* An even bigger majority of local TV news consumers (76%) got that news through a TV set in 2018.

The turmoil for the local news industry in recent years has come with major financial challenges. Circulation and advertising revenue for newspapers have seen sharp declines in the last decade, according to the PEW analysis of industry data, and other researchers have documented that thousands of newspapers have stopped publishing in the last two decades. There also is evidence of audience decline for local TV news stations, although advertising revenue on local TV has been more stable.

When asked about the financial state of the news outlets in their community, a majority of Americans (63%) say they think their local news outlets are doing very or somewhat well, with a third saying that they’re not doing too well or not doing well at all. This is a slightly more pessimistic view than in 2018, when 71% said their local outlets were doing well, though it is still a relatively positive assessment of the financial state of the industry.

Just 15% of Americans say they have paid or given money to any local news source in the past year – a number that has not changed much since 2018. The survey also asked Americans who did not pay for news in the past year the main reason why not. The most common explanation is that people don’t pay because they can find plenty of free local news, although young adults are more inclined to say they just aren’t interested enough in local news to pay for it.


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