Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Future Of Newspapers

Young People, News, And The Future
By Chris Evans

Our generation gets an unfair rap as slackers, thanks to many a teen comedy and countless anti-drug public service announcements. However, I think those of us who are close enough to the demographic to have a clearer view of young people’s daily habits know that is far from the truth. Our mothers and fathers, who are accustomed to reading the daily newspaper to find out what has happened in the world in the past 24 hours, are using themselves as an example of comparison when assessing our news habits.

But considering the technological advancements in recent years it is unfair to compare the traditions of yesterday to the fast-paced, multi-tasked world of 2007 where information doesn’t need to be bleakly placed on a rectangular black and white piece of paper, and instead can be accessed instantly from any device with a modem. Through talking to some people under the age of 25 who consider themselves to be responsible, aware Americans I’ve discovered experiences that directly contrast the research done by the Shorenstein Center, which was the basis for the New York Times article, “Young Adults Are Giving Newspapers Scant Notice.”

Jane Hirt, editor of Red Eye, was exactly right when she said in the article, “They pick and choose what they want on their iPods, what to TiVo and watch whenever they want, and so forth.”

After talking with some college students with slight variances in age, I’ve found that many young people get their news from outlets that appeal to their sense of speed and control—such as the Internet. Jessica Dragonetti, 20, a junior at Marymount Manhattan College majoring in English said, “Every night when I come home from class I check to see what has happened throughout the day. It’s the easiest way for me stay updated on what’s happening in America and in the rest of the world.”

Even though Dragonetti adds, “I don’t really have much time for TV”, she does still rely on television primarily for local news. “The Internet is a great place for news that’s affecting the nation, but watching the local news on TV is the best way for me to find out what’s happening right here in Manhattan.” This is slightly in line with the findings that young people are more likely to find their news on TV than on the web, but in Dragonetti’s case, she uses both mediums for daily news.

Grace Dawson, 19, who attends the Art Institute Online of Pittsburgh, Pa., says she has to rely on the Internet for her news because she doesn’t have cable. “I don’t really need TV because these days everything is on the Internet,” Dawson said. “When I log onto America Online a window pops up that tells me what the important news stories were that day, and if anything catches my interest, I’ll read it. That’s the great thing about online news.” She continues, “If something bores me, I don’t have to read it. If one story out of an entire page of news interests me, I only have to read that one. That’s different from TV where I have to sit there for an hour listening to boring stuff just to wait for the last ten minutes where the real story comes on.”

Dawson and Dragonetti are only two people out of millions of young people all across America, but their experiences are in-line with my own news habits as well as most other people in my demographic that I know. I’m not sure if maybe 1,800 people weren’t enough to do an accurate study on the behavior of young people when it comes to news, or if Dawson and Dragonetti are simply anomalies. But one thing I will say for sure is that the issue is much more complicated than the New York Times article would have you believe.

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