Stop Scaring Teens With The News

from the the-front-page-is-irrelevant dept

A recent study reports that while most teenagers describe their online experiences on YouTube as a “treat,” most classify their online news experiences as stressful or a “reminder of the world’s dangers.” Furthermore, most of the teenagers in the study do not actively keep up with the news. Rarely, if ever, do they go directly to the news websites, but rather end up there from portals and news aggregators, and only then if something catches their eye. The report recommends that news organizations help allay teen angst by making their sites better springboards for conversations and being more focused on solutions and problem-solvers. That said, is this really a problem with online news? Perhaps the way traditional news organizations approach the news is actually the problem. How many teenagers regularly watch the evening news? Perhaps news organizations should study why The Daily Show and Digg are so popular, since both present news in a more relevant, palatable, and oftentimes, more humorous fashion. Maybe it’s not the online-ness of the news that is the cause of their waning popularity, but rather, the fact that they are at risk of becoming irrelevant to a new generation of news consumers.

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Comments on “Stop Scaring Teens With The News”

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rstr5105 says:


Being only about 5 years out of this demographic, I’d like to think I jumped on early. MsM has a tendancy to take the slightest negative issue and blow it way out of proportion. (Boston Bomb Scare ’07 anyone?) And although yes I (and many other people in my age range) will admit that there are some matters that are best addressed somberly & soberly, most news programs simply care too much about getting the ratings. I’m sure that in 20-30 years, when my generation’s children are reaching this point there will be more Revolutions in the news business, and I’m sure techdirt will be blogging on it then too. (Or whatever passes for a blog in 20 years on Web 99.9)

Anonymous of Course says:

Heck, I’m long beyond that demographic
and I find the news stressful and a
reminder of the world’s dangers.

There’s little good news reported.
If it bleeds it leads. That’s bound
to give a distorted and frightening
view of the world.

Luckily with age comes some skepticism
and a little cynicism, that helps mute the
effect of the news reports. I can’t help
but think with each news article that I
read “what’s the reporter’s angle and who
benefits from this.”

It would be nice to see the news run more
as a public service and less as a profit
center. At least with the internet I can
pick and chose seeking the least glitz
laden sources of news.

my medium is dying says:

the news orgs care about teens since...?

Being less than two years out of the “teens” demographic and a journalist-in-training, I kind of have to say “wtfever” to this blurb.

Yes, I’ll agree that sometimes the stories that get run aren’t fully developed and often go off of what information is available (which is usually a police report, which is not known to be a shiny, happy document, although sometimes entertaining whenever there’s a possession-related arrest).

However, what’s the point in catering to teens? I am a Millenial/Gen Y-er, and we’re an obscenely self-involved group. Even being a student journalist and therefore more likely to read up on world events, I have a hard time caring about local government elections (read: any elections for that matter) or the latest rapist on the block as much as I’m more inclined to see what my Facebook feed says.

Yes, I’ll admit that I would prefer to watch “the daily show” or “the colbert report” than refresh Yahoo!News and get the latest on the Pakistan situation. And yes, I’ll admit that there’s still some resistance in the j-world (to say the least) when it comes to switching to so-called “new media” and its ability to evolve as events release from the typical newsprint format.

But I’ll also admit that the news organizations — be they physical papers, wire services, crawlers like Yahoo and Google or anyone who has a stake in making profits — don’t really give a poo about teenagers.

The notion, which is proven again and again, is that teenagers don’t care about what is going on elsewhere in their neighborhoods, countries or the world and won’t until they are at least in college, more likely in the 27 y/o+ demographic, which tends to actually subscribe to news services.

So really, should we give a shit about whether we’re scaring self-absorbed teens with news when they’re not going to actually care for at least a few years anyway? Or should we focus our efforts on evolving the medium of reporting as a whole to Generation Y and younger who are so tech-reliant/savvy and more likely to use newsprint as a tool for packing shot glasses than as a source of information?

As an aside, Comment 1/rstr5105: While I understood by “msm” you meant, “mainstream media” the more common connotation for that acronym is “men having sex with men” so… you may want to spell that one out next time.

dorpus says:

In a few years

Will Techdirt consist of old geezers ranting and raving about outdated “intellectual property” issues, foaming at the mouth about how evil RIAA used to be?

When future economies become more dominated by biotech, with its greater emphasis on ethical issues, will the “market fundamentalists” of yesteryear sound heartless and backward?

C R Ellsworth (user link) says:

Stop Scaring us all with the news

The elitist/socialist media needs to stop scaring us ALL
with their negativism, but then they wouldn’t be them.
Between ‘If it Bleeds it Leads’, and ‘The Conspiracy to keep us Broke and uninformed’, we can’t really expect them to act in a socially responsible manner. After all, real ‘Social Responsibility’ is not part of their trick bag.

Anonymous Coward says:

dorpus still makes posts? I thought he was angrydude now or something. morons and second rate trolls either way.

To the point though, news in general now a days is less about what’s happening and more about ‘entertainment’ which is freaking absurd. At least in the US it is this way, I can’t safely vouch its the same everywhere, but I’m willing to bet its not just an American or Western thing.

It all comes back to responsibility. It is irresponsible of the media to cause public scares for no reason, or to ‘create drama’ and be invasive (paparazzi, some ‘investigative’ reporters).

It is also irresponsible of people to accept this crap at face value. I expect teenagers to be lazy, its the only right they actually can claim, but the self serving whine fests are a bit irritating.

I just wish it was JUST teenagers though. Far too many people these days just dont seem to know how to properly act.

Harry says:

Re: Internationl mainsteam media

@Anonymous Coward:
Yes, it’s different in other parts of the world, but in most ways much the same. Across Europe, mainstream media is “just the facts” (local PBS stations often broadcast BBC news, if you’re interested).

In the middle east, however, the news is propaganda. It must support Islam, so they end up with Al Jazeera as their news source. This is like having Jerry Falwell produce the CBS evening news. Worse, actually; at least Falwell’s followers don’t blow themselves up. But neither are known as unbiased sources.

Young people using The Daily Show or Colbert report is just as bad, however. The main interest with them is the entertainment factor (comedians will ridicule anything), but The Daily Show in particular leans so far left as to be nothing more than ideology. Is the Saturday Night Live weekend report a real newscast? No. Comedy is at best commentary, not news.

All things considered, the worst thing about our mainstream media in the US is the incompetence and laziness of the journalists themselves.

Grizzly Ironbear says:

this makes me happy

i for one am GLAD that we are finally taking a stand against the media. for too long they have ran rampant, only showing us what one person deems as worthy. and to top it off his decisions are made by sheer numbers on a piece of paper! i do believe we do need to know what is going on around us. but let it be done in a more muted manner. as teens are faced with daily problems with school, self esteem, house life, and sometimes work. they are usually already at the limit of what their still growing brains can handle. why subject them to yet more stress? as we mature we are able to better cope with the dailies, and are able to watch the news for what it really has become, a circus sideshow of who’s got the more gruesome story.

Just Me says:


“able to watch the news for what it really has become, a circus sideshow”

In reading the posts above I can’t help but be reminded of a slight “wardrobe malfunction” at the SuperBowl a few years ago.
The local paper (usually a pretty respectful if slightly politically slanted one) ran a full page story about how horrible the whole scene was despite the fact that it was a tiny peek from far back and only for 1/2 second.
Naturally on the entire opposite page was an accompanying photo of “the event” zoomed right in to show exactly what had happened at just the right moment.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the article coupled with such a photo. Since then I hold little regard for any news outlet.

Seems you need to look at each story from multiple angles and decide for yourself what the “real” story is (usually somewhere between either parties account). I hardly have time for this myself and let’s be honest – teens aren’t exactly known for their diligence on their own time.

Damn lazy kids says:

Good news is Vanilla news

Whatever happened to having a person read from a prompt to deliver facts? Yea, that’s boring, but that’s also news.

Local stations around the nation are already bending over backward to grab the attention of this new generation of Xbox/PS3 – Mis-diagnosed ADD suffering, Ritilen Popping, Dope Smoking, Short Attention Span, “My daddy never spanked me and my mommy hugged me too much” generation. They spice it up with animations, music, and new ways to call the “news” the action news to the minute with street level cameras mounted to helicopters.

Kids don’t need better news boiled down to something digestible, they need a kick in the pants.

New sucks says:

Are you kidding me?

First, do we really want our kids getting more disinformation than they already do with our biased newsevice by trying to sugarcoat the truth? Since when did we decide that feelings come into play when deciding what is true or not?

And as for calling the Daily Show relevant, can we be serious even thought the show isn’t? It is a comedy show. Half if not more is completely fabricated and the rest is total opinion.

I do believe that journalism needs a wake up call concerning its biasness and I agree that they think everyone loves dirty laundry but isn’t all that bad enough that we don’t start limiting the news we get based on age? What if a 7 year old wanted to watch the news? Now we have to have Elmo as an anchor so the child can relate and not feel frightened.

Steve says:

It's been a problem a long time....

I was in 7th grade when Reagan was elected, and the day after the election, I remember that based on the news that got to “us schoolkids” then, we were ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that on inauguration day, he would start World War 3, and launch the nukes, killing us all… I remember watching the inaguration and listening to the news radio at the same time to see if we were at war yet.. Of course, that was the day the hostages were released, and the rest is history, but what we have to remember is that the media has ALWAYS been left-wing slanted, and is more interested in competing for ratings than presenting facts. Nothing has changed but the medium by which we GET the news…

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m nearly 28 now and I am just now starting to really follow the news around me. Was I too self absorbed? Maybe. I also think it has a lot to do with what this article is saying. I can remember watching Desert Storm happening on the news and being absolutly terrified. I remember sitting at home watching the news with my parents growing up and thinking to myself “This is the most depressing stuff I’ve ever seen”. So I stoppd watching it. Nothing good came from it to me. Now I keep an eye on the market and the electoral candidates and such. But I completely skim over the “1000 dead in Cambodia” articles. Is that because I’m terrified of them? No. I just would rather not continuely hear whats wrong with the world and would rather read about what people are doing to fix it. That sounds like I’m some kind of bleading heart liberal, but the truth is I am just your normal “X” gen guy starting to grow up. To sum it up I don’t believe that mainstream media is actually on our side. And they only show me what will sell, as pointed out by a previous post. I’d rather get the points of view as straight facts and/or from a lighter point of view and let me make up my own mind about it rather than reading some journalists pov that is all about making their impact.

MarcoVincenzo (profile) says:

Avoid the MSM

I’m no where near the stated demographic (my youngest child is in her 20s), and there is no way I’d suggest the main stream media as a news source. The main stream media are pure entertainment with at best a slight relationship to actual local or world events. And, even where there is a relationship, it’s sensationalist aspects are all that the MSM present. They don’t present opposing perspectives, they never look beyond the obvious, they never think outside of the box, they never explore the relationships between one headline and another. They don’t present news, they present sound bites.

Anyone, at any age, who wants “news” has to look to aggregators (I prefer reddit to digg) and shows like The Daily Show because only there will one find more than the agreed upon corporate perspective presented by the MSM, only there will one hear of the relationships between news items, and only there will one find truly opposing, or different, interpretations to those the media elite want us to have.

And, if you want a nice clean current example you don’t have to look any further than the MSM defining for us just who “legitimate” presidential candidate are and then working to restrict any media coverage that might go to those candidates they didn’t choose. Anyone who wants to know what’s going on must ignore the MSM and go to other sources–and now we have them.

Craig says:

I’m 15 (almost 16), and I think the internet is a great source of news. Not only is there a greater variety of sources, but I’m not limited to only hearing about current news. There’s a lot of feeds with cool and random information out there (BoingBoing and Digg), as well as a bunch of educational feeds (Reddit and Slashdot). Of course, sites like Digg and Reddit come with their fair share of sensationalist headlines (a lot of it, actually), but things are a lot less scary when there are multiple sources offering different perspectives, and I can just filter out stuff that I don’t want.

From the study, it seems like most people are just passive in news reading, but that’s their problem. If they don’t make an effort, it’s only going to be the media’s sensationalist stories that get to them. I’m probably more technologically aware than most people my age, however, so it might also be an issue of people simply not knowing that there are better sources of news and content out there. For instance, I’m probably one of around ten people at my school of 2000 students who has any idea what RSS is.

Seriously though, from what I’ve seen, this study is bullcrap. The people who get stressed by online content are going to feel the same about any other form of media. And really, teens just don’t care that much, and we’re pretty desensitized to the way things are today.

RA says:

It’s nice to see an article backing us teenagers up rather than deeming us uncaring and uninformed. The news can be stressful and I’d rather not live in fear. Regardless, I read the news daily, but we have reason to avoid certain articles occasionally. My dad is always talking about the end of the world, it really isn’t a stomach settling subject…

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