Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

November 11, 2013

McCall: News audiences shrink and the nation suffers

Young adults get ‘news’ from social media

Audiences for both print and broadcast news have been decreasing for a number of years, and the trends suggest further shrinkage in the years ahead. This lack of civic information is dangerous for a nation founded on the notion that power rests within the citizenry. People who don’t follow current events are less informed at election time. They are also less able to provide the societal dialogue and political pressure that needs to happen between election cycles.

Assessing why audiences are increasingly unwilling to stay informed is a challenge. Perhaps the news is so dismal that people just don’t want to hear it. News of terrorism, international strife, Congressional bickering and police actions hardly make news consumption an enjoyable pursuit. Other portions of the “news” are so dumbed down that perhaps viewers just won’t waste their time on it. Puffy morning network news broadcasts have breaking reports about their prime-time entertainment shows. Local television news often features YouTube videos, furry animal stories and celebrity Twitter posts. Whatever the reasons, Americans consume less news and are less informed about current events than they should be in a self-governing society.

The lack of interest in news today is most pronounced in younger Americans. A recent report by the Pew Research Center showed that Millennials (ages 18-31) consume only about half as much news as persons aged 48 and over. Gen Xers (ages 33-47) do better, but still lag behind older news consumers. Most disturbing, however, is the finding that Millennials and Gen Xers are not consuming more news as they age, thus destroying the theory that simply growing up would help those generations become more news literate. The typical news-consuming American qualifies for Social Security. The median age of the major network 6:30 p.m. newscasts is now 63.

The lack of news consumption, as you’d expect, results in less awareness of current news events. The Pew News IQ surveys consistently show that younger demographics can answer fewer questions about current happenings. It hasn’t always been like that. Studies from the 1960s and ’70s show that baby boomers followed news as closely as did older Americans at that time.

Young adults are awash in mobile, digital technology that gives them instant access to the world’s database, yet they fail to use it to inform themselves about news reports that will affect their lives now and for years to come. Only 8 percent of Millennials report using their iPhones or iPads to access newspapers.

Millennials spend countless hours on social networking sites such as Facebook, but those sites do little to enhance news awareness. A recent study by the Pew Journalism Project showed less than half of Facebook users ever get news during their time on the site, and most of that is by accident when they are online for other purposes. Worse yet, the most common “news” absorbed while on Facebook is news of the entertainment industry.

A serious danger is that many young adults may think they are in the know simply because they spend so much time in the digital universe. But being connected online hardly guarantees news literacy. Social networking, trolling for YouTube videos and checking out NFL Fantasy team stats hardly prepares a person to engage in today’s political, economic and cultural dialogues.

This generational news gap just can’t be good for our nation. Author David Mindich raised his concerns about an uninformed young adult population in his book, “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News.” He wrote, “As young people begin to assume leadership roles in society, their stewardship may be uninformed by news.” He went on to say, “If this trend continues, the very potency of our democracy will be in jeopardy.”

Indeed, the American system of self-governance relies on a citizenry that is aware of the day’s important issues. That’s why the Constitutional framers created a free press system that would allow for the free flow of information.

News literacy must become a priority at the nation’s high schools and colleges. Every educational institution should ensure that students understand the role of news in their lives. Schools must prioritize news literacy as a vital curricular component, just like science, math and English. An uninformed nation becomes a threat to itself.

Jeffrey M. McCall is a professor of communication at DePauw University in Greencastle. Contact him at jeffmccall@depauw.edu. On Twitter: @Prof_McCall.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Vasicek: Celebrating Easter I have shared a few bits of Easter humor over the years, so I thought I’d start with a new one. Joseph of Arimathea was the wealthy Pharisee who is famous for helping to bury the body of Jesus. He procured the body, asking Pilate’s permission, and, w

    April 20, 2014

  • Public Eye: Was Turner the only one?

    CNHI Statehouse Bureau Chief Maureen Hayden and other Statehouse reporters didn't get an answer as to why the House ethics committee hearing concerning State Rep. Eric Turner was postponed, but it now appears the committee will meet Wednesday. A note

    April 20, 2014

  • DAY: God trusted us with them Well, you heard about my wife and I, and our families from the past, so it is time for me to tell you about two of the prettiest girls I have ever known. They are our daughters Debbie and Patty. They are the greatest gifts from God that we have had i

    April 19, 2014

  • LoBianco: Bigger ethics questions raised in House Turner review

    Members of the House Ethics Committee who will take up Rep. Eric Turner’s case face daunting tasks as they try to answer two questions: Did their powerful colleague violate any ethics rules in privately lobbying against a measure that would have hurt his family’s business?

    April 18, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 18, 2014

    Attendees at the Tipton County Board of Commissioners meeting April 7 were treated to an appalling lack of both action and concern by the commissioners.

    April 18, 2014

  • Letter to the Editor: April 17, 2014

    On March 20 of this year I attended a public meeting of the Tipton County Economic Development Alliance. Members of this group include the three county commissioners, a member of the county council, two members from the city council, and the mayor.

    April 17, 2014

  • Hicks: Measuring the unmeasurable

    One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things that humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives it such dominance over other social sciences.

    April 17, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush presents 'The Art of Leadership'

    On April 5, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The display, which runs through June 3, boasts “portraits of more than two dozen world leaders” painted by Bush, according to the official literature.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bohanon: ‘Economics is fun’ in Vegas or in Bible study

    I am writing this on an airplane to Las Vegas. I’ll be attending the annual conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education along with two of my colleagues and six of my students.

    April 16, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 16, 2014

    At the time the agenda for the April 7 commissioner meeting came out, I was happy to see that the neglected commissioner board appointments were finally going to be addressed. These appointments had been in limbo for months on end.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll