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Methodology for ‘Americans and the News Media’

This study was conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute (API) and The Associated Press‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The study was funded by API. Staff from API and The AP‑NORC Center collaborated on all aspects of the study.

General Public Survey

The survey was conducted from March 21 through April 17, 2018. Data were collected using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, which is NORC’s probability‑based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. During the initial recruitment phase of the panel, randomly selected U.S. households were sampled with a known, nonzero probability of selection from the NORC National Sample Frame and then contacted by U.S. mail, email, telephone, and field interviewers (face‑to‑face). The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97 percent of the U.S. household population. Those excluded from the sample include people with P.O. Box only addresses, some addresses not listed in the USPS Delivery Sequence File, and some newly constructed dwellings.

Interviews for this survey were conducted with adults age 18 and over representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Panel members were randomly drawn from the AmeriSpeak Panel, and 2,019 completed the survey — 1,847 via the web and 172 via telephone. The final stage completion rate is 30.2 percent, the weighted household panel response rate is 33.7 percent, and the weighted household panel retention rate is 88.1 percent, for a cumulative response rate of 9.0 percent. The overall margin of sampling error is +/‑ 3.0 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect.

Respondents were offered a small monetary incentive for completing the survey. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, depending on respondent preference. Phone interviews were conducted by professional interviewers who were carefully trained on the specific survey for this study.

Once the sample was selected and fielded, and all the study data had been collected and made final, a poststratification process was used to adjust for any survey nonresponse as well as any noncoverage or under‑ and over‑sampling resulting from the study‑specific sample design. Poststratification variables included age, gender, Census region, race/ethnicity, and education. Weighting variables were obtained from the 2017 Current Population Survey. The weighted data, which reflect the U.S. population of adults age 18 and over, were used for all analyses.

Journalist Survey

The survey was conducted from March 1 through April 12, 2018. The study was designed to reach a representative sample of newsroom personnel with editorial or reporting responsibilities. To reach this target population, we drew a sample across different types of outlets and job titles, using a database of media contacts maintained by Cision Media Research (available to the public through a paid account). The sample was drawn along three dimensions — job title, outlet type, and whether the outlet was a national or local organization. The Cision Media Research database may not include some members of the target population, including new journalists or those working at certain outlets not covered by the database. Contacts from the following job titles were included in the sample:

  • Assignment Editor
  • Calendar Editor
  • Editor
  • Editorial Coordinator
  • Host/Anchor
  • News Director
  • Producer
  • Program Director
  • Public Service/Community Affairs Director
  • Reporter/Writer
  • Station Manager
  • Web Content Producer

Contacts with those job titles were then narrowed down to include only those who worked at outlet categories in the following groups:

  • Cable/satellite – network/station
  • Cable/satellite program
  • Magazine, consumer
  • Magazine, news and business
  • Newspaper
  • Newspaper publisher
  • Newspaper, community
  • Newspaper, neighborhood/classified
  • Online, consumer (includes some news sites)
  • Online, news and business
  • Radio network
  • Radio program
  • Radio program, national
  • Radio program, regional
  • Radio station
  • TV network
  • TV program
  • TV program, national
  • TV program, regional
  • TV station
  • Wire service

Journalists in this database were classified as working for either “major national outlets” or “minor national outlets or local outlets.” Major national outlets include the following, with all others classified as minor national outlets or local outlets.

  • Newspapers:
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • USA Today
  • The Wall Street Journal

Magazines (circulation of 2 million or greater based on Alliance for Audited Media 2017 data)1:

  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Game Informer
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Family Circle
  • People
  • Woman’s Day
  • National Geographic
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Time
  • Reader’s Digest
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Southern Living
  • Taste of Home
  • Shape
  • O, The Oprah Magazine
  • Glamour
  • Parents
  • Redbook
  • ESPN The Magazine
  • American Rifleman
  • FamilyFun
  • Martha Stewart Living
  • Real Simple
  • Seventeen

Television:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • CNN
  • C‑SPAN
  • MSNBC/CNBC
  • FOX Cable News/FOX Business News
  • Telemundo
  • Univision
  • ESPN/ESPN2

Newswires:

  • Associated Press
  • McClatchy Newspapers
  • Bloomberg News
  • Reuters

In total, 5,022 sample lines were classified as major national outlets, and 72,514 sample lines were classified as minor national/local outlets. Of these 77,536 sample lines, 75,488 contained working email addresses. These 75,488 journalists from U.S. major national, minor national, and local outlets with working email addresses were mainly from the United States (all 50 states and territories) with some sample lines in Canada. They were all contacted by email to participate in the survey, and interviews were conducted online using the Qualtrics platform. The survey confirmed eligibility (adults working for an organization that reports on the news). Respondents were offered a small monetary incentive ($15) for completing the survey. All interviews were conducted in English.

The final sample is made up of 1,127 completed interviews with journalists, including 1,120 in the United States and seven in Canada. The response rate is 1.5 percent. The overall margin of sampling error is +/‑ 3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect. The margin of sampling error may be higher for subgroups.

Once the sample was selected and fielded, and all the study data had been collected and made final, a poststratification process was used to adjust for any survey nonresponse as well as any noncoverage or under‑ and over‑sampling resulting from the study specific sample design. Poststratification variables included the type of media outlet the respondent worked for (television, radio, newspaper, magazine, online/digital, news wire, or other) and whether the outlet the respondent worked for was considered a national or local organization. The weighted data, which reflect the drawn sample of newsroom personnel, were used for all analyses.

All analyses were conducted using STATA (version 14), which allows for adjustment of standard errors for complex sample designs. All differences reported between subgroups of the U.S. population are at the 95 percent level of statistical significance, meaning that there is only a 5 percent (or less) probability that the observed differences could be attributed to chance variation in sampling. Additionally, bivariate differences between subgroups are only reported when they also remain robust in a multivariate model controlling for other demographic, political, and socioeconomic covariates.
Full toplines for each survey and details about the Media Insight Project can be found at www.mediainsight.org. For more information, please contact info@apnorc.org.

Contributing Researchers

From the American Press Institute

Tom Rosenstiel
Kevin Loker
Jeff Sonderman
Katie Kutsko
Jane Elizabeth
Katherine Ellis

From NORC at the University of Chicago

Nicole Willcoxon
David Sterrett
Dan Malato
Liz Kantor
Jennifer Benz
Trevor Tompson
Xian Tao

From The Associated Press
Emily Swanson

Acknowledgements

The Media Insight Project would like to thank the following experts for providing helpful suggestions and feedback on the study design: Talia Stroud at The Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, Joy Mayer of Trusting News at University of Missouri, Eric Newton and Dan Gilmor of News Co / Lab at Arizona State University, Seth Lewis of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, and Logan Molyneux of Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University.

We also drew upon prior research and conversations with: Sally Lehrman at The Trust Project at Santa Clara University, Alan Miller of The News Literacy Project, Indira Lakshmanan and Alexios Mantzarlis of the Poynter Institute, and Emily Bell at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

The views and findings in this report reflect those of the Media Insight Project, and may not reflect those of the experts.

About The Media Insight Project

The Media Insight Project is a collaboration of the American Press Institute (API) and The AP‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research with the objective of conducting high‑quality, innovative research meant to inform the news industry and the public about various important issues facing journalism and the news business. The Media Insight Project brings together the expertise of both organizations and their respective partners, and involves collaborations among key staff at API, NORC at the University of Chicago, and The Associated Press.

About The American Press Institute

The American Press Institute (API) advances an innovative and sustainable local news industry by helping publishers understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public‑service journalism, and succeed at organizational change. API is a national 501©3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance. It works with and draws on the best ideas from technology, business, and publishing.

About The Associated Press‑NORC Center For Public Affairs Research

The AP‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research taps into the power of social science research and the highest‑quality journalism to bring key information to people across the nation and throughout the world.
The Associated Press (AP) is the world’s essential news organization, bringing fast, unbiased news to all media platforms and formats.

NORC at the University of Chicago is one of the oldest and most respected, independent research institutions in the world.

The two organizations have established The AP‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct, analyze, and distribute social science research in the public interest on newsworthy topics, and to use the power of journalism to tell the stories that research reveals.

The founding principles of The AP‑NORC Center include a mandate to preserve carefully and protect the scientific integrity and objectivity of NORC and the journalistic independence of AP. All work conducted by the Center conforms to the highest levels of scientific integrity to prevent any real or perceived bias in the research. All of the work of the Center is subject to review by its advisory committee to help ensure it meets these standards. The Center will publicize the results of all studies and make all datasets and study documentation available to scholars and the public.

  1. http://abcas3.auditedmedia.com/ecirc/magtitlesearch.asp

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