Published: November 20, 2015
After much soul searching, a first-year college student just declared her major in business. Though she arrived at the school undecided, she felt right at home in the business department and was excited to dive into the world of international business. Because of this, she thought it would be a good idea to start following many popular news outlets on Twitter and Facebook. Within days, she grew tired of seeing stories on problems that seemed impossible to solve and began to regret her decided major.
This hypothetical situation is the way that many college students have been viewing news in the last few years. The problems that are presented by the media seem too large and too complicated to even fully understand, let alone have a solution. A scholarly article written by Suzanna Fisher for the Public Relations Review published in June 2015 took a survey of 220 undergraduate students at the University of Maribor to gauge their perception of reported events and their faith in media.
That survey stated that of the students who participated, only a third of those students had trust in mainstream reporting and journalism. The other two-thirds were skeptical that these media outlets were not reporting the full story and thought they were biased in some way. All students who participated also had varying levels of wariness toward news organizations.
Matthew Reavy, Ph.D., a journalism professor at The University, said that students are moving toward sources like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and online media that use comedy and short writing to make news more bearable. He said that these sources need to be credible, but it is good that young people are taking an interest in journalism and current events.
“People do care about the facts and are questioning for the right reason,” Reavy said.
Communication student Linzee Duncan reads multiple news sources daily. She said she follows news outlets such as CNN on Twitter, reads the New York Times and follows her local news whenever she returns home as well. She said that problems reported seem impossible to solve when they are about social issues such as race.
“When I think back to Michael Brown, the news makes it seem like nothing about this will ever be solved,” Duncan said.
Similarly, communication student Michael Lavin thinks some reporting makes problems seem impassable. He said the media exaggerates stories in order to get more attention and more viewers. He said that the recent shooting at the Oregon’s Umpqua Community College was a good example of this.
“Stories like this just seem to put people in a panic. It seems to hurt more than it helps,” Lavin said.
Reavy said that feelings like these can lead to confirmation bias, the idea of a person only listening to sources that confirm ideas and opinions they already have. This is a dangerous thing because it closes young people off from new ideas in a time in their lives where they are still forming an identity.
He said that people in the middle of political and global issues are more likely to listen to both sides and therefore more likely to find solutions to problems that neither side would think of.
“If you only look for what you know, you’ll learn less and less,” Reavy said.