The (null) over-time effects of exposure to local news websites: Evidence from trace data

Jane Cronin*, João Fernando Ferreira Gonçalves, Magdalena Wojcieszak, Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberg, Ericka Menchen-Trevino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Scholars and observers attribute many democratic benefits to local news media. This paper examines exposure to local and national news media websites, side-by-side in one model, testing their over-time effects on political participation, knowledge, and affective and attitude polarization. We test whether traditionally disengaged or disadvantaged groups (i.e., racial minorities, those with low education levels, politically disinterested, and those who do not consume national news), may particularly benefit from local news consumption. To this end, we combine three-wave panel surveys (final N = 740) with 9 months worth of web browsing data submitted by the same participants (36 million visits). We identify exposure to local and national news sites using an extensive list of news domains. The results offer a robust pattern of null findings. Actual online exposure to local news has no over-time effects on the tested outcomes. Also, exposure to local news sites does not exert especially strong effects among the tested sub-groups. We attribute these results to the fact that news visits account for a small fraction of citizens’ online activities, less than 2% in our trace data. Our project suggests the need to evaluate the effects of local news consumption on the individual level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Information Technology and Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2022

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