Researchers at the Danish School of Media and Journalism have studied how the Danish population perceive and comprehend news. Among the unexpected results was that social media has less significance for opinion building than anticipated.
Today, most people follow the news throughout the whole day, with their mobile device in hand. But the news flow, mixing traditional news, entertainment and private updates, makes it more difficult to differentiate between various types of news.
This is especially true among younger generations. The young largely orient themselves by following the flows of certain people online, compared to older generations who mainly turn to a number of specific news media or channels for news.
These are some of the basic results presented in Active, overwhelmed, diverted or addicted?, a Danish report examining how news and current affairs are perceived and comprehended by different segments of the population – and the importance of these views in a social context.
In five chapters, the report explores Danes’ media use, different social networks’ impact on peoples’ news understanding, how different groups orient themselves in the society and with whom they discuss news. The report also investigates Danes’ trust in the media, and how they reflect upon if and why it is important to keep up with the news.
Based on the conclusions, five types of news users are identified. In addition to the young and the elderly mentioned above, there are city-dwellers, who see themselves as media- and socially competent, and the rural population, who form their outlook, including their political orientation, in local newspapers and Facebook groups, for example.
For the fifth type, families with children, daily life often seems like “just surviving”. For parents, children are sometimes the reason they keep track of news and sometimes the reason they “can’t be bothered”. Despite being simplifications, the researchers believe the five types to encompass much of the range of attitudes to news and current affairs in 2019.
The minor role of social networks in forming people’s opinions was unexpected, according to the researchers. For opinion building, personal networks – family, workplace, friends – are still the most important. Another unexpected conclusion was that the theory of filter bubbles is exaggerated; for most people, it is important to be aware of current issues. Moreover, Danes are generally both knowledgeable and critical media users, according to the results.
Among the negative results – and of great concern for the future – is the low willingness to pay for news and quality journalism.
•Download the English summary (PDF 227 KB)
•Find the summary in English on the site, Report on Media Development in Denmark (under Special reports: Comprehension of news and current affairs in the Danish population)
More information: The report on Danes' news understanding is based on just over a hundred interviews plus a survey, and was made by the Danish Media and Journalist School on behalf of the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces. It is published as a special report in the Agency’s annual "Reporting on the media development in Denmark".
The survey was made by the following researchers at the Danish School of Media and Journalism: Jakob Linaa Jensen (research leader), Roger Buch, Jakob Dybro Johansen, Poul Thøis Madsen (also AAU) and Flemming Tait Svith.
NORDIC OUTLOOK: Media, Culture and Public Connection in Norway
In connection with the report's publication on 22 October, the Agency for Culture and Palaces organised a conference on news and current affairs (in Danish).
At the conference, Jan Fredrik Hovden, Professor at Bergen University, presented the Norwegian research project Media, Culture and Public Connection: Freedom of Information in the ’Age of Big Data’.
The project studies how people in Norway experience and make use of their freedom of information, as well as the significance of media and cultural arenas in people’s public connection across sociocultural differences.
See Jan Fredrik Hovden's presentation at the conference (video in Norwegian)