Browsing for Political Knowledge: Turning to the Internet for Political Learning

We’ve defintely seen a paradigm shift happen with where we turn to for political news over
the last two decades. As access to te Internet has increased 100 fold for most, so has our willingness to look to it for national news. As the study done by Eric Riedel et al. suggests, we now rely almost exclusively on the Internet to stay up to date on national and international news, as compared to more local news that is happening around our city or state. I tend to agree.

My dad actually called me the other day from out of state and told me that the SR 99 Tunnel Project had been in question once again after a bid by a state contractor was secured and building was already underway. How had he heard? My father is an avid reader of Internet news online.

Getting back to the Riedel study, their proposition was simple: “news sources on the Internet are linked to learning about politics, as indicated by increased levels of political knowledge.” To put this to the test, they formed three hypothesis’s.

Hypothesis one states that the relationship between local and national news is not balanced. Basically, those who know local news tend to stick to and read more local news than they do national news. Those who read national news also tend to stick to just reading national news.

Hypothesis two and three tie together with each other more than with number one. Hypothesis two simply states that Internet news content tends to be more national in nature than local in nature. Hypothesis three states that reading the news online predicts that you will gain far more national political knowledge than you will local political knowledge.


Questions for Discussion

Do you read the newspaper?

Are you more informed nationally than you are locally?

Why are you more informed that way?


Riede, E. et al. (2003). The role of the Internet in national and local news media use. Journal of Online Behavior, 1(3).


8 thoughts on “Browsing for Political Knowledge: Turning to the Internet for Political Learning

  1. Pingback: Week 8 : Thinking About The Future « COM546 : Evolutions

  2. One thing I wanted to add in the discussion was related to the reading I did for this week about those who read political blogs – essentially, it pointed out that because you can pick and choose what content you read online, you end up NOT reading a diverse set of viewpoints because you can stick to only the political content you WANT to read. So in that case, the Internet ends up not providing more general political knowledge, but rather more of a narrow band of knowledge.

  3. While I was shopping at the grocery store this weekend, I saw the Sunday edition of The Seattle Times. I looked at it and thought nostalgically of how I used to spend Sunday mornings leisurely browsing through the paper.

    I did not buy a copy.

    I definitely depend on the Internet to get my political news. Interestingly, I mostly use the web to stay more updated on international issues.

    How do hyperlocal/neighborhood blogs such as the West Seattle Blog fit in this news scheme?

  4. Sounds like an interesting article, wish I could have been part of the discussion. I can definitely relate to this local/national tension as heavy consumer of news and current event stories. It can be troubling how computers 1) attract/distract our attention away from our actual physical surrounding and 2) can better inform us about a world that we don’t actually experience. I for one can definitely say that I know more “national” than I do “local” – although this may due more to the fact that I’m a transplant from the East Coast, not quite settled into Seattle, than me being a digital native. For me, the tension really comes to light in the context of hyperlocal news – it’s odd, and at times unsettling, to consumer hyperlocal news via channels that had originally made a big difference bringing far away stories close to home.

  5. Eric, solid presentation on a pretty challenging subject. Your slides did a great job of conveying the ideas and emotions you wanted us to take away without being verbose. Very Zen! It’s unfortunate that people are focusing their online attention on national news and politics at the expense of local coverage. I don’t think this would have been an issue a few years ago, but as more content is accessed online (whether it be video, opinion, investigative, etc), people are not getting information from traditional sources (including newspapers, radio, and TV). I’m guilty of the findings the study in your article uncovered, but only because I drive to work and listen to KUOW on the way. If I commuted by bus, my knowledge of local news and politics would be close to nil. I wonder how local outlets can stay relevant without the deeper pockets of their national counterparts.

  6. Sorry to have missed your presentation, Eric. I definitely agree with hypothesis #1 – that people tend to follow local or national/international news, but not both. I fall into the latter camp, and my sources are a mix of Twitter, news org websites, and news org TV broadcasts (usually in that order of progression). I definitely think my political knowledge has increased as a result of following national/international news.

    This made me question, to what extent do certain lifestyle factors – such as occupation or an interest in travel – impact news preferences? In my case, these factors are significant.

  7. Hey Eric,

    Sorry I missed your presentation, I’m sure it was great. I am more informed about national news than I am local news, but I think that may be beneficial. With an increasingly flat world shouldn’t we be more informed about what is happening around the world instead of in our small community? Just a thought. Like I said, I’m sure your presentation was greeeeaaaaat.

  8. You did a great job! It was interesting that the article was written in 2003 and not earlier… I think that by 2003, it was pretty obvious that print was being displaced. I agree with the author’s three main points; that there’s a weak relationship between local and national politics; internet news sources are mostly national; and that you’ll gain more political knowledge if you get your news from the internet. I thought discussion around your question of ‘Do you still read printed news?’ was interesting. My short answer is no. Printed news feels stale.

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