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Local TV Tops Pandemic News Sources

According to a new study, local TV remains the top source of news since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that news is causing a lot of angst. 

That is according to marketing agency Digital Third Coast, which polled 2,000 people on their relationship to the media and how it may have changed during the pandemic. 

Two thirds of the respondents (66%) said their news consumption has increased and half said they had added new sources of news to their usual routines, though more than half say news coverage of the pandemic has caused confusion. 

Local TV news was the preferred news source for 17% of respondents, followed by CNN (15%), followed by online, newspaper and Fox News, all at 9%. Two thirds said the news has caused anxiety and about the same that it has engendered "burn out." 

At least half said the COVID-19 news has made them feel overwhelmed, angry, hopeless, anxious, and fearful. More than half (54) said they are cutting back news to help cope with those, while more than a third (36%) say they avoid watching news entirely.  

Asked if they trusted the news, 78% of Democrats said yes, while only 57% of Republicans said yes, but that was a percentage point higher than independents. In terms of demos, millennials had the highest media trust at 68%, followed by GenXers at 64%. 

Related: COVID-19 Crisis Hits TV Industry

And while 40% said their social media use has increased during the pandemic, 69% said they believe social media "causes more harm than good" when it comes to providing accurate information about COVID-19. 

A quarter of respondents said they had gotten in an argument over social media about COVID-19. One in five of those said they had unfriended a friend over such disagreements and 15% said they had unfriended a family member over them.  

And with apologies to the owners of bobble heads and other Dr. Anthony Fauci merchandise, well under half (40%) could identify a picture of the director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. By contrast, 64% could correctly identify Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Both figured prominently in White House briefings on the virus, and Fauci was hailed a something of a medical version of iconic CBS anchor Walter Cronkite when it came to trusting his advice about dealing with the pandemic. 

The survey was conducted online between April 28-April 30, 2020 using Amazon’s survey platform, Mechanical Turk.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.