Avoiding the News

A small but growing number of people in many countries consistently avoid the news. They feel they do not have time for it, believe it is not worth the effort, find it irrelevant or emotionally draining, or do not trust the media, among other reasons. Why and how do people circumvent news? Which groups are more and less reluctant to follow the news? In what ways is news avoidance a problem—for individuals, for the news industry, for society—and how can it be addressed?

My new book with Ruth Palmer and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen explains why and how so many people consume little or no news despite unprecedented abundance and ease of access. 

Drawing on interviews in Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as extensive survey data, Avoiding the News examines how people who tune out traditional media get information and explores their “folk theories” about how news organizations work. We argue that news avoidance is about not only content but also identity, ideologies, and infrastructures: who people are, what they believe, and how news does or does not fit into their everyday lives. Because news avoidance is most common among disadvantaged groups, it threatens to exacerbate existing inequalities by tilting mainstream journalism even further toward privileged audiences. Ultimately, our book shows, persuading news-averse audiences of the value of journalism is not simply a matter of adjusting coverage but requires a deeper, more empathetic understanding of people’s relationships with news across social, political, and technological boundaries.

From the back cover...

This is urgent, necessary reading for anyone in the business of news, for anyone who cares about the news, and for anyone who wants to ensure a future of fair access to knowledge and information for all. We ignore this meticulously researched and empathetically reported book at our own peril.

Melissa Bell, publisher of Vox Media

News avoiders are one of the most neglected topics in communications research, yet listening to and understanding them may be absolutely crucial for the health of democratic culture. This precisely grounded, sociologically rigorous, and searching three-country study sets completely new standards for pursuing this elusive topic.

Nick Couldry, London School of Economics and Political Science

This is a beautifully written book that teaches us so much about the nature of our relationships to news by looking in closely at the lives and understandings of people who choose to avoid it.

Katherine Cramer, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This book is a wide-ranging investigation of not only the quantitative data about news avoidance but also, most importantly, the sentiments of those who have opted out of quality journalism. If journalists want to regain these readers, then it is crucial that we understand them first. This book serves as an important first step.

Clara Jiménez Cruz, CEO of Maldita.es and chair of the European Fact-Checking Standards Network

A deep dive into the complicated reasons that people distrust the news. A must-read for any journalist who wants to serve the people, meaning all the people—not just their friends and colleagues.

Amanda Ripley, Washington Post columnist

Available for purchase across North America as of December 26, 2023. Order directly from Columbia University Press and receive a 20% discount using the promo code CUP20.