When seeking news, students stay local

By Julia Jones

The current young adult population is the least engaged with news than any other preceding generation, and according to Dr. Paula Poindexter, a professor at the University of Texas and author of multiple books about news engagement, this could be the fault of the news media.

“The truth is the news media, the press, has a history of ignoring almost every generation when it’s in its youth, and…that generation has ignored the press back,” Poindexter said.

When they leave their homes to go to college, most students have to make a conscious effort to stay up-to-date with the news, and nearly one third of these students do so through social media, according to a poll taken at the University of Texas.

Active news engagement began for rhetoric and writing senior Trinity King when she realized her parents and teachers were no longer there to “feed” her news. She mainly gets her news from social media, but spends extra time verifying the information she reads and checking the news app on her phone.

“My first source of news mainly comes from what I see on my Facebook or Twitter feed, but then I’ll go research the article to make sure it’s true,” King said. “I would say I stay fairly up to date with what’s going on in the news.”

According to Poindexter, the rise of social media along with the increase in smartphone and computer usage over the last 20 years has led to less news engagement among children, teenagers and adults. This is because when children don’t grow up watching their parents engage with the news, whether it be through reading a newspaper, watching a broadcast or listening to the radio, they are less likely to go out of their way to engage news for themselves.

Once those students go to college, however, they begin to show more interest in the news for what they see as their own benefit. This is what McCombs freshman Shelby Robinson said she experienced when she left for UT.

“When I was in high school, I think that news got fed to me, I guess, by teachers and parents,” Robinson said. “But then it was like, ‘You’re on your own. It’s your responsibility to check it if you want to,’ and UT classes kept me involved.”

She said that it is now more important for her to seek out information for herself, which she does through daily social media news updates, mostly over Twitter.

Both Robinson and King say that they stay involved with stories that matter to them, and they both cite politics as a priority. King realized that she needed to become more involved in news before the 2016 election.

“I’m more up-to-date and involved with news than I was in high school and my first year-and-a-half of college,” she said. “The 2016 presidential election and its primaries really sparked my interest in current events and since then I’ve made it a point to stay more up-to-date.”

Facebook was the first medium to cater directly to the youth of the population, but other media such as Twitter and Snapchat quickly followed. While these platforms have given young people easier access to news, they have also expanded the possibility of misinformation, according to Houston Chronicle Executive Vice President Nancy Barnes speaking at the Denius Symposium on News Integrity, an event held on Oct. 3 at UT’s Belo Center for New Media.

“One of the big problems that we have is the separation of corporate goals and journalism,” Barnes said. “It really troubles me when social media organizations consider themselves a platform. This allows a lot of the problems that we saw last year.”

These problems that she references are the fake news stories that circulated widely during the last election cycle. She stated that since anyone can post on social media, those who consume news on those sites no longer know what to believe and lose trust in the press.

Alternatively, established news organizations have taken advantage of the prevalence of social media. David Sternlicht, NBCUniversal News Group’s vice president, stated at the Denius Symposium that his company has been able to reach a younger audience through Snapchat.

“Within the past few months we’ve started a newscast on Snapchat which, much to the surprise of a lot of people my age, has already reached millions of people on a daily basis,” Sternlicht said. “That use of new platforms is to reach out to younger people.”