To my generation: Why are you not interested in the news?

By Zai of TakeChargeLadies

Reading the Sunday paper was something of a tradition growing up. My folks subscribed to Sunday’s El Nuevo Herald, the local paper for Spanish speakers. At the table, mom and I ate breakfast while dad skimmed through the paper almost in its entirety, mentioning the latest headlines. He’d mentally pick the stories he wanted to go back to later in the day.
As I always did, I’d wait ‘til dad was done and out of sight to steal some sections of the paper. Mostly, I wanted to read the Lifestyle section, comics, as well as a weekly insert that included very localized citizen journalism, and of course, the Sunday specials (As fate would have it, some 10 years later I am now writing for the Lifestyle section and editing a citizen journalism section at the paper I work at).
Dad would always come looking for me, asking where the heck the rest of the paper went. I’m sure by then, he knew I’d gone and stolen his reading material, but I think he liked pretending he had no idea.
This tradition continued ‘til I moved away at 22. That was when I had gone to write my own news as a journalist.

As I’ve mentioned before, my daily routine now includes arriving at the newsroom before sunrise and checking out the latest news, both national and international. I always make sure to “Facebook share” anything that’s important or interesting, especially because I know that many of my Facebook friends rarely check out the news, and I feel like it’s almost a duty to attempt to get them to read.
As happy as I am to do this “Facebook sharing” ordeal, I have to say it really bugs me that people my age have little to no interest in the news. Many of them have lived up to the name they were given a few years back: the “MTV generation.” We ’80s babies were branded to be the age group whose interest would be only in pop culture, fashion, vanity and all things sex-related. The saddest part of it all is that in a way, this age group actually embraces that generation brand.
When curiosity sparked, I checked out just how many of my Miami friends are fans of a local paper. Turns out seven of 250 friends are. Yet, 41 are fans of The Jersey Shore, an MTV show that may one day prove to be a brain cell killer.
My point is not to knock the show or its viewers. I’ll admit I’ve gotten a glimpse and a giggle from The Situation. My point and question is this: Why are so many young people interested in only superficial happenings and not in real news?
A Harvard report concluded in 2007 that adults aged 30 and younger do not follow news at all. When participants of the survey said they did follow news sources, their opinion of what “real news” was is pretty discouraging.
“What we found is that what people mean when they say they are engaged in the news has much more of a glancing, superficial basis than anything we would have hoped,” said Alex S. Jones, the director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard.
“Young people seemed to think that just listening to the radio in the background was listening to the news.”
It’s not.
Chances are I will post this blog on my Facebook and only a handful of friends will actually read it. That’s okay. I understand that this may not be an interest to many people.
But an earthquake has struck halfway across the world, soldiers are dying to defend the country and the government is barely serving us like it should. Yet, the crowd who will be responsible for the future is busily consumed with looking at videos, pictures and tabloids about celebrities or things that are useless to society.
Wake up, people!

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2 Responses to To my generation: Why are you not interested in the news?

  1. Luisa Martinez says:

    While I definitely agree with many of your points Zai, I can’t help but wonder whether you’re confusing correlation with causation. Just because a lot of your friends weren’t fans of a local paper, doesn’t mean they don’t care about the news. Did you check how many of your friends were fans of online news sources? Or news networks? Truth is, many of us watch the news on tv or read blogs from our favorite news commentators. Also, I hate to say this but the media also feeds into the “pop culture/garbage phenomenon”. Just look at these past few weeks, there has been historical events occurring all around the world…revolts, strikes, and now natural disasters, yet there isn’t a day that passes by when I don’t turn on the news and hear something about Charlie Sheen! Really?! Charlie Sheen is news?! If the media stopped giving him importance, then maybe everyone else would follow. I don’t mean to go on here and rant, I honestly do think our generation could use a little wake up call and I completely agree that we put too much importance on those idiots from Jersey Shore. But I needed to make sure you knew that just because we aren’t fans of our local paper it doesn’t mean we don’t care about the real issues.

    • Thanks for the constructive criticism, Luisa. I don’t think being interested in pop culture or related issues causes young people to not be interested in “real news.” What I was pointing out was that there are many young people whose interests revolve around that and only that, and many times, they believe what they’re watching is the only important news they need to get. Studies everywhere show that “real news” readership, whether online, in print or televised, is predominently an audience older than 30. My Jersey Shore and local news comparison was only that – a comparison. But for the record, I still think most of my Facebook friends don’t give enough importance to current events. And while you’re right that the media produces “infotainment,” I do think it’s important that a media outlet provide its readers with well-rounded material, not only to increase its audience, but to provide news that satisfies different interests and opinions. I have to say I think there are some outlets that give too much importance to infotainment, but that’s when it’s up the audience member to switch to a more informative source. I also think people need to look at opinions that differ from their favorite commentators. It’s a good thing to be a skeptic, so it’s important to look at different viewpoints. Now, I won’t disagree that I’m sick of hearing about this Charlie Sheen character. Enough already!

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