NATURALLY it is possible to make a rough estimate only of the amount of attention people give each day to informing themselves about public affairs. Yet it is interesting that three estimates that I have examined agree tolerably well, though they were made at different times, in different places, and by different methods.1

A questionnaire was sent by Hotchkiss and Franken to 1761 men and women college students in New York City, and answers came from all but a few. Scott used a questionnaire on four thousand prominent business and professional men in Chicago and received replies from twenty-three hundred. Between seventy and seventy-five percent of all those who replied to either inquiry thought they spent a quarter of an hour a day reading newspapers. Only four percent of the Chicago group guessed at less than this and twenty-five percent guessed at more. Among the New Yorkers a little over eight percent figured their newspaper reading at less than fifteen minutes, and seventeen and a half at more.

Very few people have an accurate idea of fifteen minutes, so the figures are not to be taken literally. Moreover, business men, professional people, and college students are most of them liable to a curious little bias against appearing to spend too much time over the newspapers, and perhaps also to a faint suspicion of a desire to be known as rapid readers. All that the figures can justly be taken to mean is that over three quarters of those in the selected groups rate rather low the attention they give to printed news of the outer world.

These time estimates are fairly well confirmed by a test which is less subjective. Scott asked his Chicagoans how many papers they read each day, and was told that

14 percent read but one paper
46 " " two papers
21 " " three papers
10 " " four papers
3 " " five papers
2 " " six papers
3 " " all the papers (eight at the time of this inquiry).

The two- and three-paper readers are sixty-seven percent, which comes fairly close to the seventy-one percent in Scott's group who rate themselves at fifteen minutes a day. The omnivorous readers of from four to eight papers coincide roughly with the twenty-five percent who rated themselves at more than fifteen minutes.

It is still more difficult to guess how the time is distributed. The college students were asked to name "the five features which interest you most." Just under twenty percent voted for "general news," just under fifteen for editorials, just under twelve for "politics," a little over eight for finance, not two years after the armistice a little over six for foreign news, three and a half for local, nearly three for business, and a quarter of one percent for news about "labor." A scattering said they were most interested in sports, special articles, the theatre, advertisements, cartoons, book reviews, "accuracy," music, "ethical tone," society, brevity, art, stories, shipping, school news, "current news," print. Disregarding these, about sixty-seven and a half percent picked as the most interesting features news and opinion that dealt with public affairs.

This was a mixed college group. The girls professed greater interest than the boys in general news, foreign news, local news, politics, editorials, the theatre, music, art, stories, cartoons, advertisements, and "ethical tone." The boys on the other hand were more absorbed in finance, sports, business page, "accuracy" and "brevity." These discriminations correspond a little too closely with the ideals of what is cultured and moral, manly and decisive, not to make one suspect the utter objectivity of the replies.

Yet they agree fairly well with the replies of Scott's Chicago business and professional men. They were asked, not what features interested them most, but why they preferred one newspaper to another. Nearly seventy-one percent based their conscious preference on local news (17.8%), or political (15.8%) or financial (11.3%), or foreign (9.5%), or general (7.2%), or editorials (9%). The other thirty percent decided on grounds not connected with public affairs. They ranged from not quite seven who decided for ethical tone, down to one twentieth of one percent who cared most about humor.

How do these preferences correspond with the space given by newspapers to various subjects? Unfortunately there are no data collected on this point for the newspapers read by the Chicago and New York groups at the time the questionnaires were made. But there is an interesting analysis made over twenty years ago by Wilcox. He studied one hundred and ten newspapers in fourteen large cities, and classified the subject matter of over nine thousand columns.

Averaged for the whole country the various newspaper matter was found to fill:

1. July, 1900. D. F. Wilcox, The American Newspaper: A Study in Social Psychology, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. xvi, p. 56. (The statistical tables are reproduced in James Edward Rogers, The American Newspaper.)
1916 (?) W. D. Scott, The Psychology of Advertising, pp. 226-248. See also Henry Foster Adams, Advertising and its Mental Laws, Ch. IV.
1920 Newspaper Reading Habits of College Students, by Prof. George Burton Hotchkiss and Richard B. Franken, published by the Association of National Advertisers, Inc., 15 East 26th Street, New York City.

Chapter III
Chapter V