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A Tough News Quiz

Posted by Kara Miller, Culture Club  May 29, 2012 08:57 AM

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Jon_Stewart_and_Michael_Mullen_on_The_Daily_Show.resize.jpg What do you know?

If you get your news from Fox or MSNBC, not much, apparently.

That’s according to a new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University, which found that well-informed Americans tend to listen to NPR, the Sunday political talk shows, and The Daily Show, while Fox and MSNBC viewers score below-average in their knowledge of current events.

Earlier this year, pollsters asked about 1200 Americans questions like these:

-“To the best of your knowledge, have the opposition groups protesting in Egypt been successful in removing Hosni Mubarak?”

-“Which party has the most seats in the House of Representatives right now?”

-“It took a long time to get the final results of the Iowa caucuses for Republican candidates. In the end, who was declared the winner?”

Those who listen to NPR did best when it came to both national and international questions. As a host on an NPR station in Boston, that makes me feel quite proud - except for the fact that NPR listeners don’t have much to write home about either.

Out of five international questions, NPR listeners got an average of 1.97 questions correct, while watchers of Fox News and MSNBC (1.08 and 1.23, respectively) landed on the other end of the spectrum.

But even 1.97 seems weak - a result, perhaps, of people catching scraps of news here and there - jumping in and out of cars during the day, dipping into NPR for a few minutes before a child’s soccer game, or catching a half-story about Syria before pulling into the garage.

And once you do get home, get dinner fixed, emails answered, kids bathed, and the wash done?

You click around for some news on TV, but it’s not there.

In our fractured television landscape - a landscape that was supposed to offer us a smorgasbord of options - there’s, quite frankly, very little news.

There’s a lot of opinion, which is interesting and sometimes worth hearing. But try consistently finding the top stories of the day at 9 p.m. or 10 or 11 (without turning to a non-American outlet, such as the BBC or France’s TV5). I dare you.

I get four all-news channels, but news can be hard to come by. One such channel, HLN, used to stand for Headline News, but, like KFC, they decided to go the initials-only route.

At least KFC kept the chicken.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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About the author

Kara Miller is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in journalism, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She also serves as a guest panelist on WGBH-TV's “Beat the Press” and contributes to 89.7 FM WGBH (NPR). More »

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