Measuring a community’s “news awareness” — your feedback?

by | Feb 27, 2018 | Blog

As we move forward with our newsroom project — working with journalists and community members to improve local information ecosystems — we’re going to do some polling at the outset.  The first of our surveys will be online and aimed at learning something about what we are calling a community’s “news awareness” — among other things, people’s understanding of how news works as well as their attitudes toward journalism and our newsroom partner.

Thumbs up, down and sideways

These questions will provide a form of baseline data. After we do some of our experiments with the newsrooms and work with key community people, we’ll measure again. Needless to say, we hope to see positive change.

We’re grateful to Talia Stroud and Gina Chen from Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas/Austin. We asked them to put together a kind all-star collection of great questions others have asked, includng their own. Then, with input from media literacy scholar Renee Hobbs of the University of Rhode Island, the American Press Institute and others, they put this survey draft together. We talked it over with them, and suggested some changes, as did our ASU-Cronkite School colleague Hazel Kwon.

We believe the survey will be useful to us, our newsroom collaborators, and others in the field. (As with everything else we’re doing, this is freely available to others for use, under this Creative Commons license, after we’ve done our initial on-site surveys.)

Today we are looking for feedback from anyone. Please contact us on social media or email thoughts to We plan to take this “into the field,” as survey researchers like to put it, in the near future. One caveat: we left out of this draft a few questions designed to test local news knowledge and a person’s ability to distinguish fact from fiction, opinion from news, and so forth. We’re also posting the survey on Medium and our Facebook page, so feel free to leave comments there. 

Again, this is a draft. We hope you’ll find it interesting, especially if you’re in the journalism world or simply care about the survival of local news.

Community News Engagement Survey 

This is the Feb. 16, 2018 draft.

Location: Where do you live? Choices: In Kansas City (or whatever city); In the Kansas City region (or whatever region); Elsewhere in the United States; Outside the United States

News Impressions: We are going to show you a word, and we’d like you to write down the first word that comes to your mind when you see it. For example, if you saw the word “candy” you might write “delicious” or “unhealthy.”The words: News; Local News; <specific news organization, e.g. Kansas City Star> [Participants only see one option at a time; not randomized]

News Consumption: For each of the following, please indicate how often you get this type of news — through any form of media. Choices: Local News; National News; <specific news organization, e.g. Kansas City Star> [randomize the order] Scale: 1 (not at all), 2 (once a week), 3 (a few times a week), 4 (once a day), 5 (more than once daily)

Media Creation and Sharing: For each of the following activities, please indicate how often you do the following: Activities: Share news stories on social media; Create your own content on social media. Scale: 1 (never) 2 (a few times a year) 3 (once or twice a month) 4 (once a week) 5 (more than once a week) 6 (at least once a day) [randomize the order] 

News Awareness: Each news organization provides a major news event or issue to which it has dedicated extended coverage and believes has garnered large readership in the past 12 months to be used in this question.Question: How much, if anything, have you read or heard about (major news event)?  Scale: 1 (a lot), 2 (a little), 3 (nothing at all)

News Opinion: Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statement: “It is easy for me to tell the difference between hard news and opinion in the media.”  Scale: 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) <modified from TMASS national survey, 2017>

Disinformation: Have you ever shared a news story online that you later found out was made up? Scale: 1 (yes), 2 (no), 3 (don’t know)

How confident are you in your own ability to recognize news that is made up? Scale: 1 (very confident) 2 (somewhat confident) 3 (not very confident) 4 (not at all confident)

Fake News Awareness: Here are three local stories. One is made up and two actually happened. Select which one you think is fake. (Story 1, 2 and 3 will change according to the community.)

When deciding when news is real, how often do you take any of the following actions? Actions: Look at who shared it with you; Look at which news source published it; Look to see what evidence the story contains; Search for other similar news reports.  Scale: 1 (all of the time) 2 (most of the time) 3 (some of the time), 4 (rarely), 5 (never) 6 (don’t know)

Media Literacy:  Which of the following comes closes to describing you? “I do NOT need help finding the information I need online. I can search the information I need online without others’ guidance;  I need help getting the information I’m looking for online.” (modified from Pew Research, 2017)

Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with each of the following statements. “I can usually figure out if the information I find online is correct and reliable; When I’m interested in a topic, I gather ideas from several different news sources to get a full picture.  Scale: 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) [randomize the order]; (adapted from Knight School of Communication, 2014)

Motivations for Media Literacy: Before sharing news on social media, which comes closest to what you usually do? Choices: “I always check the accuracy of what I share because It’s important to share only factual information; I sometimes check the accuracy of what I share when I have time or reason to do so; I rarely or never check the accuracy of what I share — that’s not my job; I don’t share news on social media.”

News Engagement:

(Center for Media Engagement, 2017)On a scale of 1, strongly disagree, to 5, strongly agree, rate each statement. “The <Name of specific news organization, e.g. Kansas City Star> …

“… Is concerned with my interests; Is focused on helping people like me; Cares about getting the facts right; Explains how and why it decides what stories to cover; Is fair in its reporting; Knows the community well; Provides all the information I need to fully understand its news; Invites the community to suggest story ideas or help with reporting; Tells me who its journalists are and what they do.”


(adapted from Gaziano & McGrath, 1986; Johnson & Kaye, 2004; Kiousis, 2001) “How well do the following adjectives apply to <Name of specific news organization, e.g. Kansas City Star> … You can pick any spot on the five-point scale,  example for the pairing Fair/Unfair: Totally fair, mostly fair, in the middle, mostly unfair, totally unfair.

[randomize the order of these pairings: Fair/Unfair; Biased/Unbiased; Accurate/Inaccurate; Trustworthy/ Untrustworthy; Credible/Not credible; Transparent/Not transparent; Engaging/Not engaging

Demographics: <Gender> Male, Female; <Age> State your age as of your last birthday _________; <Education level>  Some high school; High school graduate; Associate’s Degree; Bachelor’s Degree; Master’s Degree /Professional Degree or higher; Prefer Not to Respond; <Household Income> Less than $30,000 annually; $30,001 to $50,000 annually; $50,001 to $75,000 annually; $75,001 to $100,000 annually; $100,001 to $150,000 annually; Greater than $150,000; Prefer Not to Respond <Race> Asian/Pacific Islander; Black/African American; White/Caucasian; Hispanic/Latino/Latina; Native American/Alaska Native; Other/Multi-racial; Prefer Not to Respond <Party> Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a: A Democrat; A Republican; An Independent; Other (please specify); Prefer Not to Respond

Again, we welcome your feedback. You can send us email at, or post a comment on our Facebook page or Medium, where we’re cross-posting this item.

(Image by Sean MacEntee —

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