The Atlanticnotes that a 2017 Knight Foundation report, based on a series of focus groups with 52 people between the ages of 14 and 24, found that many young Americans believe the news is biased and are sceptical of its accuracy. In a series of follow-on interviews by The Atlantic, teens confirmed their disdain for the mainstream media, reiterated Trump’s characterisation of many news sources, and said the president’s outrageous tweets have become so much a part of everyday life that they’ve become catchphrases. One teen said:
I don’t believe there [are] any neutral news organisations.
I think this whole phenomenon has given teens awareness that bias exists and things are not what they seem.
A young conservative commentator in the article notes that teens are able to receive and rework Trump’s words because they come directly from Twitter:
When Obama wanted to connect with young people, he sat down with [the 46-year-old YouTube star] Glozell, someone his own age. If Trump wants to reach young people, he’ll just tweet.
And a teacher says that she can’t use certain sources as kids will decry it as ‘fake news’:
When I first started teaching, the word of The New York Times was practically gospel, but that has changed in the past few years. The current climate has had an impact. Some of the students make disparaging comments about CNN and ‘fake news.’ And some roll their eyes at Fox…If I present CNN or Fox, that may automatically cause some limitations.
The writer says that for ‘non-biased’ news the teens she talked to turn directly to journalists themselves or news-related pages on social media vetted by people they trust.
The article shows how Trump has subverted the traditional media hierarchy by making a direct connection to his target audience through Twitter, which is surely the most powerful media in the world today. Going back to ‘the medium is the message,’ it seems that teens are more comfortable getting their news through the short form media of Twitter. Trump excels at using this medium, therefore, they are receptive to its message.
The question is not ‘Why do teens not trust The New York Times?’ but ‘why should they?’ Hitwise notes that the largest age group of NYT readers is 35-44 year olds. The mediums of print and web conveys a message that teens don’t get.
Liberals like to hold up The NYT as a paragon of reporting, but it has no claim to being unbiased. It’s certainly a mistake to think that all kids identify as liberals. While many adults, especially NYT readers, may not be able to openly identify as Trump supporters, teens are increasingly identifying with all kinds of political positions, and expressing their identity through memes and online groups that match their interests. Trump is popular with many of them because he is meme-ready.
This new generation is growing up with 1) greater awareness of media bias 2) distrust of legacy media (which mirrors the typical teen distrust of institutions) 3) a desire to dig deeper to find individual journalists and groups they trust and 4) the means to express themselves using new media of their choice.
Some might see this as a negative, but increased understanding of media bias, even when it is seen as a joke, is a huge plus for society. The old order is crumbling. It also means that teens will welcome unbiased news sources, such as Newslines and other apps built using NewsBlocks, which are unbiased and summarised by default.
Finally, who would have through that President Trump, of all people, would be the person to teach kids to distrust the news?
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