27 March 2008

How the Youth of Today get their news

Finding Political News Online, the Young Pass It On
Not surprisingly, this article about how the young share news online was emailed to me by a good friend. The general issue of the article isn't new to me, but maybe it is to the journalists. Rather than sitting down and watching the nightly news, or reading the entire paper, the young read articles online, especially ones recommended by friends, and then pass links on to others. There are some interesting lines that really capture the idea.

Ms. Buckingham recalled conducting a focus group where one of her subjects, a college student, said, “If the news is that important, it will find me.”

College students don't have the time to sit down and read the NYT or watch the 5 o'clock news. The news has to get to them, and that comes as emails, link shares on Facebook and instant messenger. But even if its delivered straight to our inbox, most people I know are more likely to read something that has been recommended by someone they know. When you use your friends as a filter, you know what kind of a filter you are getting; George likes stories about China and other Asian countries, Ann only sends stories about abortion and birth control, and Crazy Joe sends stories about Ron Paul with mocking comments. Plus, you automatically have someone you can discuss the piece of news with.

In the days after Mr. Obama’s speech on race last week, for example, links to the transcript and the video were the most popular items posted on Facebook. On The New York Times’s Web site, the transcript of the speech ranked consistently higher on the most e-mailed list than the articles written about the speech.

I think the reason is pretty clear; we are aware that punditry is not real information. "Political analyst" is a term thrown about with so little care and tossed on to so many talking heads on the churning 24 hour news that many don't trust that the "analysis" we're getting. We have seen why we need to go to the source document, and its not because the dust of history has clouded meaning, but because the slime and mud of the pundits has obscured the truth of each action and word.

Maybe we should worry that the "real" news isn't getting through, that people of like minds will filter the news so that we only hear things that confirm what we already believe. Will the college student that only cares about football only get news from other friends that care about football? Maybe, but is that really any worse than the local news that feeds us soft stories from the national feed about rescued puppies rather than the violence is Darfur, Burma and Nepal?

I'm a young adult, and my friends are people I respect and like, and what they find interesting in the news is probably interesting to me too. My friends consistently care about what is going on in the wider world. I can't say the same for some media outlets that report international news with the sigh of a child cleaning her room.

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