From Sensitives to Hedonists: A Nuanced Framework of News Avoidance
News avoidance is a hot topic. Not only did news avoidance receive academic attention in the past decade, but there is also growing interest in the field of journalism. However, a lot is still unclear about news avoidance. Why do people avoid the news, what news do they avoid, and does this mean they are not informed? Before we answer these questions, we seek a more holistic conceptualization of news avoidance, focus on personal motivations for news avoidance, and examine different manifestations of news avoidance from the perspective of journalism experts.
Previous research on news avoidance is quite fragmented, so we are venturing beyond the literature. Since we cannot study ‘news avoiders’ yet (as we don’t know who they are), we gather different perspectives on the topic from experts from the journalism field, by applying the Delphi-method. The Delphi method is an iterative group process, where a certain consensus is ought to be reached by structured communication and controlled feedback. Doing so reduces groupthink or power dynamics and makes it a convenient method to gather knowledge and perspectives from all layers of a professional field. We consulted twenty-seven journalism scholars and practitioners, combining both theory and practice.
News avoidance and its many manifestations
One of our findings is that there is no such thing as ‘the news avoider’, but that news avoidance has many different motivations and manifestations, common in all different populations and unrelated to the amount of news exposure. To uncover these motivations and manifestations, the experts formulated eight (concept) types of news avoiders.
“Sensitives” avoid the news because of its inherent negativity and feel emotionally overloaded and helpless.
“Low-trusters” feel the media are untrustworthy as media do not represent their point of view and do not cover topics they deem important.
“Disinterested ones” are simply not interested in current affairs or politics and prefer to consume entertainment or social media content.
“Niche dudes and gals” have a very specific interest or hobby, for example, sports, gaming, or gastronomy. Consequently, they skip content that does not pertain to their interests.
“Mindful naturalists” are concerned with the bigger issues in life, e.g. self-development and -care and the balance between nature and people. They do not want to be distracted or bothered by current-affairs information.
“Low-key avoiders” are too busy (with their jobs, children, or other matters) to follow the news. They simply do not get around to it.
“Hedonists” are too concerned with their own life and peers to care about societal issues.
Lastly, “media illiterates” are those who never have been socialized into consuming news by their parents or school.
The Delphi study demonstrates everyone can be a news avoider, regardless of their amount of news consumption. We also find that different motivations lead to different manifestations, and that news avoidance does not necessarily mean that news avoiders are not informed. Based on this, we can study news avoidance from an audience perspective. In this, we hope to provide a more informed account of news avoidance and avoiders.