Avoiding the news

I’ve been following and appreciating the work of Benjamin Toff and his colleagues to understand ‘news avoiders,’ folks who consume little to no news at all. Maybe they are actively turned off by certain kinds of news, or by news delivered in certain ways, or just don’t have (or make) time to consume it in general.

Neiman Lab excerpted their new book in November in So who are the consistent news avoiders? and then On The Media had a good interview with Toff in a recent segment. You can listen here:

The Rise of ‘News Avoiders’ from On The Media


We found that the digital natives we interviewed, perhaps even more than being actively turned off by the form or content of news, felt they did not need to dedicate time specifically to consuming news from a news source because they would see it on social media anyway. Academics who study digital communication have taken to calling this phenomenon the “news finds me” perception: the assumption that one need not seek news out because all the news that is really worth knowing will simply land on one’s digital doorstep. Although this assumption is not unique to young people, they spend more time on social media, and more of them report social media as their main source of news, so they are more likely to have this belief continually reaffirmed.


For myself and I think for my co-authors as well, I think it, it made us that much more aware of if we’re really honest with ourselves, why do we consume the amount of news that we do it? You know, we’d like to tell ourselves this because we feel more empowered as citizens. It’s not that that stuff isn’t true, it’s just that there’s a bigger part of the explanation here that I think does trace back to the communities. We’re a part of the social expectations around consuming news and the benefits we derive from talking about news with the people in our lives. For people who generally are not paying attention to news, they often don’t have that in their lives. And so it not only makes it harder to feel like there’s much enjoyable part of the experiences of paying attention to news, but also kind of reinforcing the notion that it’s a useful habit to develop.

The “news finds me” phenomenon they describe, where people devalue seeking out or paying for news (like a subscription to a newspaper) because they assume they will encounter useful news serendipitously, is one we’ll have to watch out for in particular. I think it might describe a good portion of our potential audience locally, folks who think of themselves as caring about the community and perhaps even as civically engaged, but who don’t have the time or interest in reading journalistic articles from a publication like ours.

Chris Hardie is a journalist, newspaper publisher, software developer and entrepreneur based in Indiana, USA. Read more from Chris on this site, learn more on his personal website, subscribe for updates or follow Chris on Mastodon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *