Young Readers Feel All Information Is 'Not To Be Trusted Or Taken At Face Value,' Study Finds

Young people are great consumers of media. But they are skeptical of both mainstream and alternate sources, judging by a report by Reuters Institute. 

 “One of the great commonalities in this study is that almost all young people believe that all information is put in the public realm for a reason, and is not to be trusted or taken at face value,” the study authors state, Nieman Lab reported on Thursday. 

They add that young readers are “highly skeptical of most information, to greater or lesser degrees — they don’t necessarily judge a source’s value by its impartiality.” 

This is based on research conducted by the Reuters Institute as a follow-up to a study published earlier this year. The authors spoke with 72 people in the 18-30 age range in the U.S., U.K. and Brazil.  



According to Nieman Lab, they discovered three forms of skepticism: 

  • More skeptical of mainstream sources—These readers still must rely on mainstream media for summarizing top stories, verifying and breaking exclusive stories. They supplement their alternative media consumption with mainstream media.  
  • Equally skeptical of everything—They feel each is (mainstream and alternative) is  biased, and both need to be consumed to get the full picture. So they consume both, putting them on an equal footing. 
  • More skeptical of alternate sources—Mainstream media might be biased, but alternative media is worse. It must be avoided or taken for what it is—overly biased and opinionated. 

The authors also defined three forms of news consumption:

  1. Need to know—Largely mainstream media, narrow news agents, narrow set of mostly mainstream news brands.  
  2. Personal interest—Broader news and more subject specialists, both brands and individual accounts. This category can also include political and current affairs news from either mainstream or alternative media.  
  3. Fun—This can come from anywhere, often based on serendipity or social share. It can include anything in a social feed, including UGC, memes, and it merges with other content. 

Whatever the source, young people insist on these rules: 

  • Fact and opinion should be kept separate.
  • Opinion should be clearly signaled as such.
  • The mainstream media should stick to reporting the facts. 




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