A new national survey exploring how African Americans and Hispanics get their news reveals that the predicted digital divide, in which people of color would be left behind in the use of technology, is not playing out as many of those forecasting the digital future anticipated. The survey findings suggest a divide based on content, not technology.
The survey finds that the two largest minority groups in the United States, African Americans and Hispanics, are using digital technology to obtain news at rates similar to the American population overall. Yet they do not believe that the growth of web and mobile media has fulfilled the promise of more coverage and more accurate coverage of their respective racial and ethnic communities. The new survey -- the second to be released by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute (API) and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research -- was produced in collaboration with the Maynard Institute, New America Media, and the McCormick Foundation.
"The great worry that people of color would not have access to digital has not occurred as many feared -- thanks in part to the advance of wireless," said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the API. "But more access has not translated into creating more content that audiences think is rich, diverse, and accurate about underserved communities."
African American and Hispanic American adults have come to rely on a variety of technologies and devices to get their news today, and in rates similar to adults in the United States generally. However, for many African Americans and Hispanics the digital news landscape hasn't made it easier to learn about their own racial or ethnic community.
Among the findings:
• On average, African American adults use 4.2 technologies for news each week, versus 3.9 for whites and 3.5 for Hispanics.
• They are adapting to wireless at even faster rates. Fully 85 percent of African Americans and 78 percent of Hispanics who have smart phones use them to get news each week, versus 74 percent of whites.
• A third of Hispanics and a quarter of African Americans believe their communities are accurately portrayed in the media.
• Half of adults in either group believe their communities are covered regularly in the media today.
"The differing levels of skepticism about the accuracy of media portrayals of their respective communities is an important finding," said Trevor Tompson, vice president for public affairs research for NORC at the University of Chicago and director of the AP-NORC Center. "This could be connected to an uneven news ecosystem, where Hispanics in the United States have access to an expanding Spanish-language media market, while African American press has contracted in recent years."
Hispanics are most likely to cite ethnic media sources as most accurate in the portrayal of their community, while for African Americans, no single source stands out. The survey also shows that African Americans and Hispanics consume news similarly to the population overall: there is no preferred device or technology to access news, there is a preference for getting news directly from an organization, and the news topic drives the news source.
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