Future of press endangered by youth apathy

Indifference toward news increases despite rising availability of technology

Social media gives false publications and trolls a platform to spread fake news articles, eroding trust in journalism.

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Social media gives false publications and trolls a platform to spread fake news articles, eroding trust in journalism.

Rebecca Covington, Editor-in-Chief

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Technology and the internet are more accessible to a larger population than ever before. However, Generation Z, raised almost completely on technology, currently earns itself the title as the generation most uninterested and apathetic towards news. It is essential that students start paying attention to the world around them and participate, whether directly or by keeping informed, in their democracy.

According to a Knight Foundation study of U.S. high school students, already low numbers of teenagers watching and trusting the news in 2016 continued to decline in 2018. About 14 percent watch local news compared to the former 30 percent, and only 12 percent watch cable news often compared to 30 percent two years ago. Although news broadcasts can be watched on apps and some streaming services, numbers continue to decline as teenagers seem to shift their focus to things news networks do not typically report upon.

Students often complain about politics taking up too much of newscasts, annoying them with a constant stream of congressional drama they would rather absorb in reality television. While newscasts do have their lenses focused on politics, it is because politics are such an important component of our world today, deciding on a multitude of issues that affect all people.

It is from a place of privilege that students claim they have the ability and the right to ignore the news and current events because it does not directly affect them. The workforce and world they will enter in a couple of years will be completely shaped by the decisions being made today, meaning they need to pay attention to political figures and laws. No decision made at the levels of city, state or federal government carries so little weight it will not affect anyone.

However, it seems students who do pay attention to politics may be obtaining a partial sliver of the story. Social media articles may contain significant biases based on the views of which publication, real or false, reported it. This possibly contributed to the survey findings low levels of trust in news, with 49 percent of teenagers saying they have ‘not much’ or ‘not any’ trust in the news media to report fairly and accurately.

In regard to fake news, few teens have faith in their abilities to identify misleading or false information, rounding out with only 21 percent of surveyed students feeling confident in doing so. Some students might be avoiding news in general to escape the possibilities of falling victim to false information. Recent revelations of Russians utilizing platforms such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook to spread fake stories and discourage Americans from voting in past elections shows social media can often deliver distorted versions of news to anyone.

Overall, teenagers, the next generation of leaders, workers and teachers, seem to be failing at preparing for their futures. Ignoring the media and holding misconceptions of news not only hurts individual students, but can cause notable harm when they become working members of society with uninformed opinions and ideas.

The only solution to the plague of apathy is to make an effort to become informed. Journalists and news organizations push for media literacy classes, which seem to be necessary in the current climate. While a class that teaches how to identify real and fake news might seem silly, it can be the only sliver of truth for students who hear misconceived notions about news and politics in their homes, among their friends and on social media.

With a new approach to articles and politics, students can make the right decisions and be participating members in their society. Free press is an essential human right outlined in our First Amendment, and the consequences would be detrimental if students ignored its importance in our society.

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