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Why do some people avoid news? Because they don’t trust us — or because they don’t think we add value to their lives?

The modern digitally connected human (Homo smartphonicus, identifiable by its trademark slumped shoulders and bleary eyes) has access to more news and information than any other human in history, whenever they want it, most of it free, all of it in their pocket.

But it’s not only news that they have more access to — it’s everything, from Clash of Clans to Keanu memes to old friends’ photos to Ariana Grande songs to TikTok. Those things, if administered correctly, serve as entertainment and tend to make their consumers happy. News, you may have noticed, isn’t that great at generating happiness these days. So lots of people are happy to stick to Keanu and avoid Trump/Iran/Putin/climate change/mass shootings/Brexit/racism entirely.That phenomenon — improved technology increases access to news, but also makes it easier to avoid it — is fairly well established by now, and I’ve been watching with interest a new flowering of research into what the academic literature calls “news avoidance” the past few years. People like me — and I suspect you, dear reader of Nieman Lab — love consuming news and relish the Internet’s capacity to leave us awash in headlines all day. But we’re weirdos, and lots of normals embrace the Internet’s ability to let them check out of news altogether.

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The latest edition of the Digital News Report that came out last week included some data on news avoidance. In 2017, 29 percent of those surveyed worldwide said they “often or sometimes avoid the news,” including 38 percent in the United States and 24 percent in the U.K. By 2019, those numbers had increased to 32 percent worldwide (+3), 41 percent in the U.S. (+3), and 35 percent in the U.K. (+11). (Even the Japanese — the world’s most devoted news consumers — saw news avoidance increase from 6 to 11 percent.)

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Why do people avoid news? In the 2017 data, the leading causes for Americans were “It can have a negative effect on my mood” (57 percent) and “I can’t rely on news to be true” (35 percent).

I give you all that quantitative data as prologue to some qualitative data on the same subject. LinkedIn senior editor-at-large Isabelle Roughol wrote a short piece Saturday summarizing this year’s Digital News Report, highlighted the news avoidance data in the headline, and asked readers about their own experience with news avoidance. And people left comments — comments that I think are instructive in how people who aren’t journalists view the news as a chore, increasingly one that can be skipped. One comments section is obviously not a scientific sample, but these are people who would probably be prime targets for a news organization wanting to expand its audience — and they’re not buying.

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Here are a few of their comments. (I’ve cleaned up some typos and wording.)

 

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