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What are the student journalists doing?

February 24, 2010

So, I found a really interesting article in my Google Buzz feed today (is it too early to start using that term casually?) via Akhila about how social media users are getting older — and how young people are barely using the internet.

Blogger Jina Moore wrote:

I gave a talk yesterday in the stellar Rosemary Armao’s upper-class undergraduate journalism class at SUNY-Albany… Rosemary’s 30-ish students are all around 20. I polled them. None of them reads blogs. None of them uses Twitter. A few actually read the newspaper (cheer for the underdog!), but few of them really seek out news. Those who do look at it on their phones.

This reminded me of my visit to St. Mary’s, a private high school in Portland, Ore. I didn’t poll the students there — my mission was slightly different — but I did happen to find out that not one of them uses Twitter. “Ms. Pierce,” one student explained to my friend who had invited me, “Twitter is for old people.”

I was mostly shocked by the fact that NONE of the 20-year-olds — in a journalism class! — read blogs. Hardly anyone reads books anymore, and definitely nobody reads papers, so if they’re not reading blogs what ARE the journalism students of today reading? Reading, people! Have we forgotten about it already?

Reading Jina’s post is initially shocking because everyone thinks of 18-24 year olds as “digital natives” (whatever that means) who are glued to the internet, blogs, Twitter, etc — even the new Pew study that came out today basically reaffirms what everyone thought they already knew about how millennials love the internet.

But while young people may use Facebook, for the most part, 18-24 year olds are not the people reading blogs or using Twitter. and when they do use social media tools they use it to connect with their friends — not necessarily to share information. That’s why seeing the clash of people my age and their parents/coworkers/bosses on Facebook is so interesting. We got Facebook in college and used it to connect with our friends — now everyone older than us is getting Facebook and using it as a professional and information-sharing tool.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised. As recently as last year I would tell my friends something interesting I read on a blog and they’d react with blank stares and scoff  “I don’t really read blogs. Blogs are not my thing.” And the only college journalism majors I know of who even use Twitter are sort of weak at it. They use it like a glorified Facebook status update, rather than a tool for sharing content, links, and insight.

At the same time, I can’t really rail on college journalists: this past Monday Huffington Post launched its college section and they have a really fine collection of college student bloggers writing for the site and sharing their insights on the college experience today. There is some great content to be found on HuffPost College from some great student writers who really get the importance of digital journalism. So you know those students are out there, but I feel like they’re few and far between.

The future of journalism is all about digital media, yet many student journalists are still, for the most part, not absorbing themselves in the online tools that are quickly taking over their industry. Print is dead (hello!) so I hope that the future journalists of America start using digital tools for information, reading, and research; digital media holds so much value for the future of journalism, but only if the college students of today figure out how to use it. If they have to be educated on it, so be it: maybe what college journalists need is mandatory classes on digital media instead of so many classes on print journalism.

We’re counting on them to figure out how to save journalism!

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for the insightful post! Your blog is great!

    Well, I’d go with Pew on this one rather than me, if only because they are careful about their sample sizes. And Steve Buttry tells me that young people do use Twitter, read blogs, etc. It may be that I just found an exceptional classroom.

    But I’ve heard that about Twitter a LOT I have to say…and maybe it’s a function of the blogs I read and the conversation I have on my blog, but my readers aren’t 20-year-olds, most of them. So I think there’s more to this than Steve does, but maybe there’s still hope for the future or whatever.

    Meanwhile, I’m not a big believer in siloing the teaching of print and the teaching of digital materials. I like your call to bring more mandatory digital ed into the classrooms, but it should be done right inside and alongside what journalism ed traditionally considered “print” classes. Good writing is good writing. Same for reporting. Writing on the Internet is often shorter, but in so many places, that seems to go along with weak or outright sloppy reporting. And this may because I’m almost 30, but I think it’s worth knowing how to write a longer article. I’m banking my career on people still picking up magazines, even if in fewer numbers. And, please God, reading books.


  2. […] says that kids these days don’t read any more.  Like, at […]


  3. I’m curious as to what online news outlets besides blogs and social media student journalists may be turning to an the medium evolves. .Perhaps schools are instead training a generation of digital natives who were coming-of-age during the rise of YouTube to become visual storytellers. I see such creative and professional looking video coming out of video and photo sharing social media everyday, that this group seems particularly apt to take advantage of new forms of storytelling that have yet to mature (like the authors themselves).
    Of course, so much of what I’m reading lately portrays a generation of students who lack self-direction and intellectual curiosity but rather a Checklist-oriented mentality. Yet in my experience working with these recent college grads (myself included), I can testify that they may be the most media literate students of history yet and we can expect some powerful creative solutions from them.


  4. […] Politicoholic is a bit concerned about the lack of digital immersion, but says all hope is not lost. I can’t really rail on college journalists: this past Monday Huffington Post launched its college section and they have a really fine collection of college student bloggers writing for the site and sharing their insights on the college experience today. There is some great content to be found on HuffPost College from some great student writers who really get the importance of digital journalism. So you know those students are out there, but I feel like they’re few and far between. […]



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