Can 'New' News Save Millennials From Stupidity?

In a Wall Street Journal story about Vice Media (love their HBO series) there was some lament over the Millennials’ disinterest in traditional news coverage: "As newspapers have already learned, it is also a demographic that is much less interested in mainstream news sources, or traditional TV in general, than older generations. Last year, 28% of adults aged 18-24 got news from the Internet only, while 29% said they consumed no news at all—higher percentages than for any other age group, according to Pew Research Center."

Having CBS apologize for not thoroughly vetting their primary source (who kinda made up his "eyewitness" account) in its “60 Minutes” Benghazi story doesn't help. In general, Americans' confidence in the accuracy of the mass media is near an all-time low. Now, 44% say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media -- up from 40% in 2012, which was the lowest reading since Gallup regularly began tracking the question in 1997.



Cable TV "news" hasn't helped, with its generous leanings either left or right clearly signalling no interest in objectivity. Story selection is also a problem. Wednesday night, NBC Evening News devoted about 45 seconds of its precious 22 minutes of evening news to a noisy Swedish couple frustrated by having to assemble out-of-the-box furniture. Really? And don't even get me started on local news, where coverage of school cupcake sales can easily run longer than the police blotter or town council hearings.

If the overall population has given up on traditional news sources such as newspapers, broadcast and cable TV and newsmagazines, why is there such a rush from all directions (Touchvision, Fusion, Vice, and Now This News, among others) to try and pull Millennials back into the news fold? From my own experience, I can say it‘s alarming that my kids never pick up a newspaper (unless their names are in it), and only watch television news because I'm watching it and they’re waiting impatiently to ask to borrow $25 for gas. They grew up digital -- if you can't click on it or swipe it, it doesn't make their vision field.

Most of these new Millennial-focused news organizations offer stories that can run on the air, on Web sites, on smartphones or tablets. Some offer updated versions of talking heads, while others like Touchvision eschew anchors and the like, saying their presence on camera alone can bias the viewer. All of them have a much hipper approach than you get from network newscasters. In fact, the last thing they want is to be mistaken for your grandfather's news (pops, BTW is the only guy in the house who still reads three newspapers a day).

Millennials are the hot spot for most marketers, who think this generation is just on the verge of discretionary income to get beyond the rent, student loads, car payments, etc. So there should be plenty of advertising support for the "new" news if they can get enough traction with the intended audiences.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: "An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight." For 250 years, this meant the press (or fourth estate, if you will) keeping an unbiased eye on the institutions of government, business and society to assure they functioned as promised.

As a nation, we cannot afford to be uninformed.

4 comments about "Can 'New' News Save Millennials From Stupidity?".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, November 15, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.

    George, all lament aside, it has nothing to do with Millennials or the news per se, but rather with the demise of the meaningful ritual that daily quiet time with a newspaper used to represent.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, November 15, 2013 at 10:48 a.m.

    My next column: Zen and the Art of Newspaper Reading...thx Mike.

  3. Kevin Killion from Stone House Systems, Inc., November 15, 2013 at 7:19 p.m.

    Have you watched the nonsense time-waster projects they do in classrooms nowadays? Have you looked at the explosion-in-a-Sherwin-Williams-store look of modern textbooks? Have you noticed how lacking in substance the school day is? Have you heard of even a single student today who ever took a course called "civics"? It's little surprise that so many graduate will little patience or interest in gaining factual knowledge about current events.

  4. Artie White from Zoom Media Corp, November 18, 2013 at 1:12 p.m.

    Mike, it actually has a lot to do with both. I'm 39 and did not grow up with a daily quiet-time newspaper ritual; regardless, I consider myself fairly informed. The dumbed-down version of today's traditional news has people of all ages fleeing to the fringes for objective information presented in a way that does not insult our intelligence or cater to base tribalist instincts. Enough with the "kids these days" tripe. If you build it, they will come- "it" being well-presented reporting on issues and events that matter in our lives.

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