Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Introducing the Pew-Knight Initiative

The 21st century has been a time of great upheaval for American journalism. The digital revolution has transformed the way people get news and information and, in the process, undermined the business model for many long-standing print publications. At the same time, public trust in journalists has declined amid escalating political divides, prompting a reevaluation of journalistic norms.

At Pew Research Center, we’ve spent decades studying journalism in the United States. For many years, our primary focus was on the news industry itself, mainly through our State of the News Media project. But as the information environment has changed – and as more and more people get informed from sources that are not traditional news outlets – we’ve expanded our focus to look more closely at news consumers. Where are Americans getting their news, and how are they deciding which journalists and information they can trust? 

Today, we’re embarking on a new chapter in this research through a five-year partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Knight Foundation has provided funding for our work for many years, and the Pew-Knight Initiative represents a renewed commitment to this research. We’ll be delivering a comprehensive, real-time look at the fast-evolving information landscape from the standpoints of both consumers and producers of news. 

This new partnership aims to improve our understanding of how Americans gather information about the world around them and how that information fuels their beliefs, shapes their identities, forges their communities and inspires civic participation.

How are disruptions in today’s news and information environment changing the way people consume news and seek information? And what implications do these disruptions have for American society and politics? 

This new partnership aims to improve our understanding of how Americans gather information about the world around them and how that information fuels their beliefs, shapes their identities, forges their communities and inspires civic participation.

Katerina Eva Matsa

No single methodology can answer these questions, and different approaches each have their strengths and limitations. So we plan to use multiple methods, including surveys, qualitative research, industry data and computational social science. We’ll work across disciplinary boundaries and continually evaluate new ways to gather relevant data.

Our previous research in this area provides an important base of knowledge from which to start. Here are just some of the trends we’ve documented so far:

  • Major shifts in news consumption: The drift toward digital is undeniable. A majority of Americans now prefer to turn to digital devices for news, outpacing not just print but also TV. Social media sites have become news spaces, too, with about half of Americans getting news there. In particular, TikTok’s role has expanded quickly, with the share of U.S. adults who regularly get news there rising from 3% in 2020 to 14% in 2023. 
  • The rise of alternative news sources: Emerging digital sources are occupying more and more space in the news ecosystem. Our studies on digital news consumption show that independent news creators are gaining ground on platforms like YouTube and through podcasts, as well as on alternative social media sites like Rumble, Truth Social and Gab. And the people who visit these platforms are finding diverse content, communities to connect with, and news they trust. For example, a vast majority of podcast listeners who get news from podcasts (87%) expect the news there to be mostly accurate. In fact, 55% trust the news they hear on podcasts just as much as other sources, and 31% trust it even more. 
  • Political polarization and media habits: The political chasm in America has seeped into media preferences, trust levels and perceptions of credibility. While a large majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (82%) think criticism by the media keeps politicians in line, for example, far fewer Republicans and GOP leaners (50%) express this view. More broadly, Republicans tend to be much more skeptical of the media than Democrats. 
  • Trust in media: Beyond the large partisan divides in media trust, there also is a general consensus that skepticism toward the news media is a good thing, and that journalists have room for improvement in their standing with the public. There’s also an age gap: Young adults in the U.S. tend to be more wary than their elders about news outlets.
  • Quality of information: Misinformation has been in the center of public debate, with a large share of Americans concerned about its implications for democracy. Our data shows that most Americans say the U.S. government and technology companies should each take steps to restrict false information online.  
  • Journalism industry struggles: Our research has underscored the plight of the industry, with U.S. newsroom employment falling 26% between 2008 and 2020. Newspapers have fared especially poorly, with a 57% drop in newsroom employment over the same period. The rise in digital newsroom employees has failed to offset overall job losses in the journalism industry. Despite these struggles, the majority of journalists say they are either “extremely” or “very” proud of their work – and that if they had to do it all over again, they would still pursue a career in the news industry.

We encourage you to bookmark this page as we continue to track these trends – and identify new ones – through the Pew-Knight Initiative.