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10 key things we’ve learned from our survey of Journal readers

The Journal garners plenty of praise but opportunities for growth and development remain.

An old joke reminds us that the problem with asking someone their opinion is that they’ll give it to you.

While blissful ignorance might feel reassuring, it’s also pretty hard to improve at what you do unless, from time to time, you invite the people whose opinions you value the most to provide honest feedback.

Last month, The Journal invited its readership to fill out a lengthy survey to help assess the publication and its impact. More than 500 people responded. We plan to use the feedback from our audience to help us inform what the next evolution of The Journal should look like.

Since the Kansas Leadership Center started printing The Journal in 2009, the magazine has evolved significantly. Today’s it’s a nationally award-winning vehicle for journalism about civic engagement and the toughest issues facing people in Kansas and beyond. But we hope The Journal still has room to grow.

We hope the insights provided by our audience will help us chart a course to getting there. The survey responses we received both made us proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and also helped us see emerging challenges and shortcomings we hope to address.

On one hand, we heard gratifying praise. Readers think The Journal is of high quality. They trust it. They describe the publication as being informative, relevant, timely, professional and insightful.

But there were also some more challenging interpretations to consider. While most readers think we’re fair and unbiased, that sentiment is not universal. The Journal likely reaches only a small fraction of the readers it could possibly serve. And while many readers value the magazine’s in-depth nature, the length of our stories was mentioned as a barrier.

Perhaps most challenging is learning how many readers see few places to turn for trustworthy information about civic life, a dynamic that raises concerns about whether citizens are getting the information they need to sustain democracy and civic life.

We know that readers are often asked to take surveys, but only rarely do the results get shared with them. The following is a list of the 10 things we’ve learned from readers through the survey that we are now thinking the most about at The Journal:   

    1. The Journal is highly regarded. Users rate it an average of about 9 out 10 in terms of quality. About 80% of readers say The Journal is of higher quality than other publications they’re familiar with.
    2. The print edition remains very popular. Nearly 84% of those surveyed use the print edition. The Journal’s weekly newsletter and klcjournal.com are also popular. (If you don’t presently receive the print edition, you may sign up for a complimentary copy here.)
    3. Readers are interested in seeing The Journal develop more digital offerings. The most in-demand products were The Journal’s web edition, documentary-style videos, subject-specific newsletters, and livestream events.
    4. People trust what they read in The Journal. When asked to rate the trustworthiness of The Journal, readers rated it a 9 out 10. Nearly 77% said they trusted The Journal more than other publications.
    5. The vast majority of readers perceive The Journal to be fair and unbiased. However, there are a few who believe it displays a slant. Among that group of critics, most said they saw The Journal leaning left, although some believed it skewed conservative. 
    6. The Journal mostly reaches people in the middle, center-left and center-right. Nearly 77% of survey respondents describe themselves as being moderate, somewhat liberal or somewhat conservative. About 16% describe themselves as very liberal and 4% describe themselves as very conservative. The remaining 3% aren’t sure about their political orientation.
    7. Among the most common words readers use to describe The Journal: informative, relevant, timely, professional, insightful.
    8. Readers value The Journal’s depth but some consider the length of its stories to be a barrier. Some acknowledged that they simply didn’t have time to read everything in every edition.
    9. People use The Journal in ways that go deeper than how they might use a traditional newspaper, magazine or news website. A small but key faction uses the magazine to initiate or facilitate discussions. A substantial majority of readers surveyed say it helps them with their civic engagement. 
    10. The Journal appears to be filling a civic information gap for many readers. When we asked readers what publications they trust, other than The Journal, with information about civic life, more than two-thirds of respondents indicated “none” or left no response. 

Thank you to all of our readers who took the survey. We’re grateful for your responses. If you have any additional feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out by email to thejournal@kansasleadershipcenter.org.