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UN/Rick Bajornas from the UN News Centre

First, the bad news:

1. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of U.S. young people who watched television news dropped 12%. (Pew Research Ctr for People & the Press 2010)

2. Most people under 40 consider news to be impractical, inconvenient, environmentally unfriendly and boring. (Shorenstein Ctr on the Press, Politics & Public Policy 2007)

3. Some 85% of U.S. young people aged 18-24 said that they posted little or no political information on a social network site in advance of the 2012 elections, and only one third of those surveyed recalled seeing any news at all on a social network site within the previous day (Pew Internet Project 2012)

4. Half of people surveyed say that they consider themselves “news grazers” who check news occasionally but not according to any particular pattern (Pew Ctr for People & the Press 2010)

5. It could be that young people are reluctant to share politically oriented news on social network sites (Thorson 2014)

And then, the good news:

10-27-2014Youth_Policy

1. More than ever before, schools, community, and even public international organizations like the United Nations are seeing the value in establishing and maintaining youth programs that work to ensure media competence (including the ability to both critique and to create media).

2. Popular culture such as music, satire television, fictional films, documentaries, games, and viral videos continue to provide openings for young people to consider, become interested in, and engage with the political issues that touch their lives (Barnhurst 1998; Bennett 2007; Jenkins 2006; Jones 2010; van Zoonen 2005).

3. Youth are involved in numerous political protests around the world and at least some young people in Hong Kong, Spain, Greece, and the United States are demonstrating as part of a desire for more participation in democratic governance.

4. Community organizations are in some places filling the gaps left as for-profit journalism struggles more than ever before to reach the growing majority-minority communities with information they need for participation in self-governance.

In some ways, today’s information-rich and often opinion-driven media landscape looks a lot more like that of the late 19th century than that of the late 20th.

Penny Magazine

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In other ways, today’s media industries are more centralized and concentrated than ever before.

There is little doubt that our ideas of community, information, and value are all undergoing change. What kinds of digital media competence are needed to navigate this environment? How can young people learn to be critics and participants in the forms of storytelling that are emerging?  How can young people whose communities have often felt underserved by profit-driven news media find ways to connect with one another, using social media resources to become members of publics and counter-publics that can effect the positive changes they wish to see in the world?

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Hi. Thanks for visiting! I’m Lynn, and I’m an Associate Professor in Media, Film, and Journalism Studies. I hope this blog will generate some good conversation. Or, if you’re reading this from most to least recent, I hope you found some things of interest here and that you’ll come back to comment, question, and point me in the right direction.

This is a new blog, but it’s part of a project I’ve been working on and interested in for a long time. The question I’m interested in is this: How do young people come to be interested in news?

Now usually when I raise this question, people (especially journalists) are quick to point out that young people really aren’t all that interested in news.

But I’ve come to realize that they answer this way because of how we as a society tend think about what “news” is.

If we think of news as the thing that comes to us in the newspaper or (as it does for me) as a list of linked headlines on my google home page, then yes, most young people really aren’t that interested.

But what if we think about “news” from the perspective of young people themselves? Then, the answers might be surprising.

I know I was surprised a few years ago when I started asking high schoolers about where they got their news. “Facebook,” several replied. No, they didn’t mean that they read New York Times content on Facebook, or read the stories from news organizations that were forwarded to them. They read the status updates their friends wrote. That was the news that they needed to know. A few talked about reading the high school newspaper, or checking sports scores online. Some confessed to watching celebrity news on tv, especially when they were between activities.

But is all of that “news”?

And if it is, how does it relate to the news that we in the 40+ age group read?

Are today’s young people truly becoming less interested in that current events kind of news than were the young people of the past, as David Mindich has argued?

Or are only some young people today interested in that kind of news – and perhaps it’s always been thus? Maybe it’s the fault of the news industries as David Buckingham has argued. They don’t see teens and college students as lucrative and regular consumers, and thus “news” is not created for them in a way that speaks to their interests.

There are important related questions, of course. Will the bulk of today’s young people become consumers of the products of the professional news industry when they get older? Or do today’s new media represent a fundamental shift in a new direction?

Moreover, thanks to the Internet and the inexpensive tools of cultural production, now anyone can write and disseminate “news,” or can be called upon to serve a journalistic role in telling an important and timely story.

And, as a media historian, I wonder: what are the precedents from the past? Who among the young of 100 or more years ago were the newsmakers, the news disseminators, the opinion leaders? How did they relate to the fast-changing media landscape of the mid to late 19th century?

I’m hoping that this blog will help me to sort out the questions as well as an approach to addressing them. Feel free to write with suggestions and point me in the direction of your work or the work of others. Thanks!