Millennials and News Consumption

Although Clarke students believe staying up to date with current events is important, the student body is generally apathetic about actively seeking out news. For Millennials, accessing news about current events, even during the current shift in our federal administration, remains easy. Newspapers, social media, and built-in phone apps all allow for immediate access to news outlets. Yet, Clarke students may not be taking advantage of their digital access to news and current events.

The reason why Clarke students are resistant to following the news may not be due to apathy – a common complaint about our generation. Instead, it may be because Clarkies are too busy with extracurricular activities. Of the Clarke student population, 40% of students are athletes. Being a student-athlete requires much time and dedication. It is possible that because of this time requirement student-athletes have less time to focus on outside events.

Some students feel as though academics also compete with their time to consume news. Bernadette Brehm and Taylor Prier are both seniors at Clarke majoring in Nursing. They are both active in the Clarke Association of Nursing Students (CANS), a student organization. Brehm stated that between completing coursework and participating in CANS they feel as though they are “weighed down with too much to seek out the news.”

Many students at Clarke claim they do not consume the news regularly, however, when asked how they get their news, they often suggest social media. When asked if she consumes the news, Rachel Summers, a Clarke freshman responded, “Nope, at home I do but not at college.” Summers is on Clarke’s volleyball team and majors in Physical Therapy. When she does consume the news, Summers states that she accesses it through Snapchat or Facebook.

The idea of being well informed but not actively pursuing all types of news is something with which Emma Mentley struggles. Mentley is the Assistant Director of Engagement and Intercultural Programs at Clarke University. Mentley feels bombarded by the news, especially when using social media. Most days she will “see a story on social media and then follow up with journalistic sites.” She chooses the news that she wishes to view. Mentley seeks out information relating to advocacy and schools. While she says that she is not well informed about world news, she understands its importance.

The idea that keeping up with current events and consuming news is important is common among other students at Clarke University. Of the 5 students interviewed at random for this story, all 5 replied that having knowledge of current events locally and internationally is extremely important. Yet, only 1 out of 5 students interviewed consistently sought out news sources. All of the students interviewed shared that they read news sources on social media, but generally only read the headlines. Most students are consuming news on social media without realizing they are news consumers. That said, because students are frequently only browsing headlines, they may often lack an in-depth understanding of current events or the news literacy skills to determine when a news source is reputable or not.

In 2016, Clarke Communication Professor and department chair, David Deifell conducted a survey of Clarke Students via e-mail.  69 students responded to the survey. Survey questions asked about student’s feelings regarding the idea of a student-run medium covering Clarke University news, as well as regional and national news. The respondents were in favor of adding a student media outlet.  Clarke students responded they received the majority of news from Facebook, word of mouth, in-class, Twitter, and Mary Ellen’s desk. When asked about students who do not actively consume news media, Dr. Deifell explained, “They were certainly interested in Clarke news and campus activities, but the next [most important topics] were sports, popular culture, and in similar amounts, the arts and movie/music reviews. They were less interested in politics. These were the folks who bothered to fill out the survey. In fact, only 50 of the original 69 even answered [the] question about what they’d be interested in. I would guess that this difference would be wider among those who didn’t respond.”

Clarke students are generally apathetic about actively seeking out the news. While they know it is important to consume the news on a regular basis, they are busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Their news consumption is not a top priority at this time in their lives.

While it appears as though Clarke students are apathetic about news consumption, many are consuming the news frequently on social media sties, perhaps without realizing it. Given this new digital behavior, it will be important for students to become more media literate as news continues to move to social, digital outlets.

-Sara Albertson

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