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What Do Americans Really Want to Know? Tracking the Behavior of News Readers on the Internet

  • Tewksbury D
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Evaluations of the health of contemporary political systems typically include some discussion of the modes through which people acquire public affairs information. In response to survey questions, Americans often profess an interest in current events news, but assessments of citizens' political knowledge often find them wanting. Unfortunately, the limitations of previously available research methods have left researchers with an incomplete understanding of news audiences and their exposure patterns. Widespread adoption of the Internet for news reading may change that situation. The World Wide Web provides audiences with substantially more control over the news selection process than they enjoyed with the traditional media. With that enhanced control, it appears online readers are particularly likely to pursue their own interests, and they are less likely to follow the cues of news editors and producers. The present study takes advantage of this attribute of online news presentation to examine the topics people select at Web-based news outlets. In general, online news audiences choose to read public affairs news less frequently than survey research suggests. This result has implications for the long-term health of democratic nations.




Tewksbury, D. (2003). What Do Americans Really Want to Know? Tracking the Behavior of News Readers on the Internet. Journal of Communication, 53(4), 694–710.

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