New Report Finds Stark Differences in People’s Access to Local News in Three New Jersey Cities

New Report Finds Stark Differences in People’s Access to Local News in Three New Jersey Cities

Study by Rutgers University’s Media + the Public Interest Initiative reveals troubling gaps in news coverage

Morristown
Morristown, with 18,000 people and a per capita income of $37,573, has the most news, and the best-quality news, of the three cities studied.
Poor communities get less news than wealthy ones, according to a new report from Rutgers University. And it’s not just less news, but a lower quality of news, according to the report, which reviewed news in three New Jersey communities of different sizes and income levels.

The report, Assessing the Health of Local Journalism Ecosystems: A Comparative Analysis of Three New Jersey Communities, examines the journalistic infrastructure, output, and performance in Newark, New Brunswick, and Morristown. The research was led by Philip Napoli, professor of journalism and media studies in the School of Communication and Information, and supported by the Democracy Fund, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Knight Foundation.

Morristown has the fewest people, the most wealth, and the most news sources; New Brunswick is in the middle on all counts. Newark has the most people, the least wealth and the fewest news sources of the three cities.

Newark, with a population of 277,000 and a per capita income of $13,009, there are only 0.55 sources of news for every 10,000 people, the report found. New Brunswick, with 55,000 people earning $16,395 per capita, there are 2.18 news sources for every 10,000 people. But the differences are most stark in comparison to Morristown, which has a population of 18,000 and a per capita income of $37,573 but 6.11 news sources for every 10,000 people.

These pronounced differences in the availability of sources of journalism were then reflected in how much journalism was produced within these three communities. Morristown residents received 23 times more news stories and 20 times more social media posts from their local journalism sources per 10,000 residents than Newark residents, and 2.5 times more news stories and 3.4 times more social media posts per 10,000 capita than residents of New Brunswick. New Brunswick residents received 9.3 times more news stories and six times more social media posts per 10,000 capita than Newark residents.

Newark
Newark has more people, less wealth, and fewer news sources than Morristown or New Brunswick.
Rutgers-Newark Office of Communications
“If journalism and access to information are pillars of self government then these findings suggest those tools of democracy are not being distributed evenly, and that should be cause for concern,” Napoli said.

Similar differences across the three communities often persisted when the researchers focused on aspects of the quality of local journalism, such as the extent to which the stories were original (rather than repostings or links to other sources); the extent to which the stories were about the local community; and the extent to which the stories addressed critical information needs, such as education, health, and civic and political life.

While the study only focuses on three communities, these findings signal a critical problem in local journalism, in which lower-income communities may be underserved relative to wealthier communities.

New Brunswick
New Brunswick, with 55,000 people and a bit more per capita wealth than Newark, also has slightly more news sources than Newark, but far fewer than Morristown.
Researchers analyzed one week of online journalism content across these three communities, focusing on both the home page content and social media (Facebook and Twitter) postings for all television, radio, print, and online journalism sources that could be located within these communities. 

“With this project, we are trying to develop a set of metrics that can be used to analyze local journalism in ways that would help us draw comparisons across communities and help us understand if local journalism is changing in individual communities over time,” Napoli said.

This research is part of the News Measures Research Project, an ongoing effort by Rutgers University’s Media + the Public Interest Initiative, which is located within the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus supported by the Democracy Fund and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The goal of the News Measures Research project is to develop analytical tools for assessing the health of local journalism. More information about the Media + the Public Interest Initiative and the News Measures Research Project can be found at http://mpii.rutgers.edu.

For more information about this research, contact:

Philip Napoli, 848-932-7568, phil.napoli@rutgers.edu

Megan Jambor, 973.695.1180, mjambor@grdodge.org

Lia Seremetis, 202-587-4936, Lseremetis@rabengroup.com

Marika Lynch, 305-9082677, media@knightfoundation.org

 


Media contact: Ken Branson, kbranson@ucm.rutgers.edu; 848-932-0580, cell 908-797-2590