A growing number of people in the digital world actively avoid news sites, according to a survey released May 23 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.
About a third (32 percent) of the 75,000 respondents from 38 countries admit to dodging news sites, up six percentage points from two years ago when Reuters last posed the question.
News avoidance was up 11 percent in the UK, a rise that Reuters attributes to non-stop Brexit coverage.
Boredom, anger, sadness, a sense of powerlessness to change events and having a negative effect on their moods are among reasons why people turn off news sites.
Polly Curtis, a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute, frets about the growing “unnewsed” population.
She wrote in the Financial Times the unnewsed are “younger, less educated, have lower income and are less likely to work” than news consumers. "We don't like to talk about it, but news habits are closely aligned to something that looks very like class," wrote Curtis.
The unnewsed, though, hardly live in an information vacuum but obtain material and share opinions “based on sources that are not produced with the rigor and standards of traditional journalism,” noted Curtis, who fears they are dropping out of the democratic process.
Reuters found that respondents who identify themselves as “populists” are more likely to identify TV as their main news source and Facebook as the top online information site.
Despite a marketing push by the news industry, only a handful of people pay for online news sites via subscription, membership or donation.
Just 16 percent of US respondents pay for online news and the bulk of them pay for only one site, according to Reuters.