National Research Addresses Millennial Generation's Lack of News Engagement
Solutions include better news coverage and adding news literacy to the curriculum
Concerned about the low level of interest in news, especially among millennials, Paula Poindexter has researched and tested solutions to increase news consumers among millennials, the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s.
In her new book, "Millennials, News, and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?" (Peter Lang Publishing), Poindexter – a professor in the School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication – identifies why news lacks importance in the lives of millennials and what can be done before millennials turn away from news for good.
Through a national survey on news engagement, Poindexter has found five major factors affecting millennials’ news consumption:
- Most millennials give the news media average to failing grades when it comes to reporting on their generation.
- Millennials describe news as garbage, lies, one-sided, propaganda, repetitive and boring.
- When they consume news, millennials are more likely than their baby boomer parents to access news with smartphones and apps and share news through social media, texting and email.
- Most millennials do not depend on news to help with their daily lives.
- The majority of millennials do not feel being informed is important.
"In the future we may not have anybody consuming news," Poindexter said. "We can't continue to ignore the problem. The older generation is dying out. Who will be the role model encouraging future generations to be informed?"
Using results from the national survey on news engagement, Poindexter has proposed recommendations for cultivating news consumers among millennials. In addition to recommending more than two dozen best practices for news coverage on millennials, Poindexter has explored new ways to bring news to millennials. One approach is Millennials and News, a Facebook page that has daily updates of news stories about millennials, of interest to millennials and news millennials should know. Created with her millennial-generation daughter to engage millennials with news, the news page is accessible to anyone on Facebook. In addition to aggregating new stories selected from credible sources, the Millennials and News founders try to encourage a dialogue about topics in the news.
During the fall semester, Poindexter and other School of Journalism professors are incorporating the Millennials and News resource into their courses. One such course is "Journalism, Society and the Citizen Journalist," which Poindexter created with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York as part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. Over the course of the semester, students will read and comment on stories posted on the Facebook news page and relevant news will be discussed during class. With the 2012 presidential election approaching, Poindexter said election stories will be an important part of the news mix, so students will have a convenient and reliable place to go to get informed about the candidates, issues, campaign strategies and latest poll results.
In addition to improving millennials' news engagement, Poindexter is working to build news literacy among middle school students, or what she calls wave two millennials. Working with The Austin American-Statesman, Poindexter launched mynews@school in 2008. The program, which will start its fifth year, brings the e-replica edition of the newspaper and lesson plans about the purpose, principles and process of journalism to classrooms.
Although Poindexter believes news must be incorporated into the school curriculum, from middle school to college, she said that because news illiteracy is a dire problem, it can't be solved by schools and parents alone.
"The news media, journalism schools and all stakeholders who care about having an informed society in the future must get involved if we are to avoid becoming a nation of news illiterates," Poindexter said.
Poindexter, who earned her Ph.D. degree from Syracuse University and B.S. from The University of Texas at Austin, has been a manager and executive at The Los Angeles Times and a reporter and producer for KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Houston. She teaches undergraduate and graduate journalism courses at The University of Texas at Austin, and she is the president-elect of AEJMC, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.