Alexa Seeger

Fixing the Problems with News

Photo used with permission from Jan Vasek on Unsplash.

Why don’t people read the news anymore? I mean replace “read” with “watch” or “listen to” and it still holds true. Many people don’t pay that much attention to the news.

I mean, I’m a journalism student, and if I’m being honest, I don’t read much news during a typical week. It begs the question, if not even the journalism student is reading it, who is?

And why aren’t they?

Let’s focus on millennials, since I am one. I would argue it’s for three reasons: many millennials don’t subscribe to traditional news outlets; many millennials don’t trust the news media, and many millennials are overwhelmed by how much news there is that they feel overloaded.

We don’t subscribe

While the Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media” report’s is fairly optimistic on the health of traditional media, if you ask many millennials if they read the news, the majority will say “sort of.” According to the American Press Institute, only 23 percent of Millennials ages 18 to 21 pay for news out of pocket. We’re just not buying it.

We don’t trust

Speaking of not buying it, many millennials just aren’t buying what the news media is telling them. According to Gallup, only 26 percent of people ages 18 to 49 say they have “a great deal or fair amount” of trust in the media. Wowza.

Graph taken from Gallup.com

That shows us that what media expert Ken Doctor writes in his article for NiemanLab is probably true. He says that in order to rebuild the news media, they need to double down on their core values. In the age of “fake” news and “alternative facts,” the news needs to be honest and straightforward. How about those journalistic ethics? Doctor highlights a few.

  • Seek truth and report it.
  • Minimize harm.
  • Act independently.
  • Be accountable and transparent.

I’d add one more: Give a voice to the voiceless and hold the powerful accountable.

To regain trust, the news media needs to earn it.

We are overwhelmed

One way they can earn our trust is by performing their editorial function.

According to Business Insider, 64 percent of people ages 18 to 24 say their main source of news is online, including social media. I subscribe to five news outlets, ranging from national to hyper-local (a.k.a. my college newspaper). I don’t even open Twitter anymore. It’s like unleashing the floodgates of notifications and news content. And my Facebook news feed is absolutely saturated with articles.

The reality is that I end up hardly reading any of them. Doctor quotes Callum Borchers, saying “the news overload is enough to make you want to throw your hands up— or, perhaps, use them to reach for a cold beverage and a remote control, with which you can escape the transition tornado by tuning in to back-to-back NFL playoff doubleheaders.”

I’d flip on a Marvel movie or a crime show, but you get the idea. It’s disheartening to feel like you’ll never be adequately informed. It’s frustrating when you feel like news organizations are putting out individual articles instead of consolidated pieces for clicks. It’s emotionally exhausting to be exposed to so much negativity. I get it.

Doctor suggests that the news media needs to go further than news-bite newsletters. They can organize Trump’s tweets into searchable table, with the fact check right next to it. They can develop scorecards to help readers make sense of complex policies and laws. I so appreciate the New York Times’ article “After Weinstein.” It had only three short paragraphs of text followed by a periodically-updated table describing the accusations and fallout 51 men faced and their responses. Much more digestible.

As a journalism student, I believe in an informed society. I work for it. Let’s make it easier for people to access the news so we can actually begin achieving that goal again.

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