Young People and News: Only Indifferent if We Let them Be

The current generation of young adults and adolescents has never known a world without technology. They grew up online and were raised with social media. They have always been a part of the Information Society, and, in some ways, it is starting to show. The media habits of people my age, 20, and younger tend to reflect what appears to be a feigning interest in news and politics. They skim through news feeds, digesting almost none of what they see. They find it difficult to believe that people still pick up hard copies of newspapers when the same news is available on the computer. Looking at these things, one might think that all young people are indifferent to news and politics, but this is not the case. Young people are not indifferent to issues at all; they merely need them to be presented in a different way than traditional news.

Christopher Sopher, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted a major research project titled “Thinking Younger.” In his research, Sopher focused on the relationship between news media and its newest consumers. From his findings, he was able to compile a list of ten things news organizations can do to cater to young people. His findings were consistent with the idea that young people are interested in news and politics, they have just developed different expectations when it comes to aggregating their news. Sopher’s research suggested on the whole that “…there’s a significant gap between you peoples’ interest in the news and their consumption of it, suggesting that youngsters expect news to find them, rather than the other way around. Sopher found that aggregators are key and that network news lacks compatibility with young peoples’ lifestyles,” (Baume). What this basically means is that if news organizations try to reach the youth in their element and on their level, they will soak it up just like anything else.

Looking at some of the main issues Sopher addressed in his research, there was definitely a focus on the presentation and accessibility of the news. He found that news websites that were easy to navigate and formatted for the information they are trying to present were more widely accepted by young people. When information is easy to obtain and presented in a visually stimulating way, young people are more likely to want to garner knowledge. A good way to consider this is to look at the New York Times online. When the New York Times made its way onto the internet, it basically became a newspaper with clickable articles. This design is not very visually appealing, nor is it necessarily easy to navigate, especially on a cell phone. Since its introduction to the internet, the New York Times has made some very helpful changes to its design that will encourage people, both young and old, to read all of the material presented to them.

Another major factor in getting people to consume the news is sharable content. With websites like Facebook and Twitter, young people are constantly sharing information about not only their personal lives, but also materials they have found on the internet that they believe other people might be interested in as well. As such, Sopher told Baume that “the news needs a form of social-stream life support,” (Baume) or something that will make it easily sharable. Adding buttons at the end of articles that will automatically share them, or even posting them to a news organization’s own social media pages are great ways to get young people interested and involved in news and politics. In fact, the benefit of using social media is two-fold. By putting news onto social media, young people are able to easily comment on what is posted. In this way, they feel as though they are actively participating and therefore more likely to get involved in discussions about news and politics. Without that opportunity, very few young people would be voicing their opinions.

The youth today are not lazy; they are merely adapted to a new form of news aggregation. Young people today want news to come to them as easily as everything else does on the internet. If it does not, they tend not to put in the extra effort that the pre-internet generation does to be informed. By simply adjusting the techniques used to disseminate news to people, news organizations can increase young people’s interest and involvement in news and politics today.

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