Friday, March 13, 2009

What, me worry? (if the local paper folds)

Here's the grabby lede from the latest Pew survey:

As many newspapers struggle to stay economically viable, fewer than half of Americans (43%) say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community "a lot." Even fewer (33%) say they would personally miss reading the local newspaper a lot if it were no longer available.

Read more here.

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At 3/13/09, 1:51 PM, Anonymous rw said...

Doug, why publish this report, or give it any attention? Did you do any research on this study's parameters?

The Pew Institute only interviewed 3,615 people, over the phone, for this study.

First of all, how do 3,615 people represent all of America?

Secondly, do smart people actually answer telemarketing calls? You have to wonder about the demographics of this study.

Third, this study was completed in August of 2008. How is this news?

This link could have helped you, had you done the proper research, to decide whether or not this study is legit:

Check it out:

At 3/16/09, 1:17 AM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


I'm familiar with Pew's methodology, and it is fairly rigorous.

As a sample that meets various sampling requirements, a sample of 3,615 can be quire represntative of the underlying population. In fact, it is a fairly large sample as sampling goes. (For an answer to your question of how it can be representative -- within certain limits -- I'd ask you to spend some time with any introductory college text on sampling, polling and statistics.)

There will be some outlying groups for which it is less representative (some of that is adjusted for with weighting), but, frankly, those groups are less likely to read the paper (and, frankly, papers are less likely to want them as readers).

Yes, people do answer such calls. I recently finished a telephone survey using random digit dialing and the demographics of our sample are quite near what the census shows.

Pew also is pretty transparent in its methodology. I read your link. I get advance notice of a lot of Pew's work. And there's nothing to make me think the results are not particularly representative.

It's news because Pew results get lots of attention. Part of my job on this blog is pointing out things to folks that they are likely to hear about (and that I feel are relevant and have some validity at least as to method) and direct them to the source material so they can judge for themselves.

At 3/16/09, 1:32 AM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Oh, BTW, I should have clarified on the last comment - the results about whether people would miss their papers do not come from August, but from a survey March 6-9. (The top of the Pew story was a little confusing on that. At the bottom, however, it was made clear.) It was a sample of 1,001 adults (which still can be highly representative).

You'll find the details at


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