What is an information gap and what’s so bad about it?

When there’s a disconnect between what the news media covers and what is actually important in people’s lives you get an information gap. These gaps have become a problem because;

  • they are large
  • they are concentrated
  • they aren’t getting fixed by the news industry and in fact, the economics of media right now are reinforce these gaps.

This is not something news organizations are doing on purpose. Basically, it’s economics.

Newspapers and online media make most of their money from advertising.  For public media the biggest chunk of revenue comes from members making donations. These business models depend on the idea of a loyal core audience. News organizations want to inform this audience in particular so they will be loyal. They also benefit when this audience has more money to spend on subscriptions, memberships or the things advertisers want to sell. Over time, this had led to news organizations working to please middle and upper middle class customers over everyone else and the value of most news is now as entertainment.

This means a lot of issues and perspectives outside those middle income communities don’t get much attention. If they do get covered it is more an exercise in translation for those middle income consumers. Since the news media plays a big role in keeping officials accountable to regular people, where there are information gaps there is also less accountability.

More reading: All The News That’s Fit to Sell, Pew Research Center report on local news consumption habits.