Envision the television, with its perfectly groomed anchors and catchy theme songs. Imagine the newspaper, with its bold black headlines and the crisp feel of the pages between your fingers. Finally, picture the radio, hosted by the compelling voice of the anchor most urgently saying, “We have breaking news.”
For the generation that grew up with the faces of Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings, the picture above is probably a familiar one. Millennials — the generation consisting of teens and men and women in their twenties — however, have no Walter Cronkite. Instead, they have the Internet.
The debate over the future of news media isn’t a new argument. With decreasing newspaper subscriptions and the plummeting television news ratings all across the country, professionals have been scratching their heads and wracking their brains, wondering why the up-and-coming generation of Americans is simply not interested in the news.
“The media has focused on what it has always focused on: breaking news, world news and the economy. And [my] generation just isn’t interested in those topics,” said public relations senior Jerrica Deloney. “My mother’s generation sought the information. [Today], information comes to us, whether through Twitter, Facebook or other outlets.”
While the conversation may seem old, today’s “Millennials and News Summit: The Real Challenge to the Future of Journalism and Journalism Education” promises to bring a new perspective on the tired argument.
Along with prominent figures in the news media industry such as Tod Robberson, a Pulitzer-prize winning editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, journalism professor Paula Poindexter has inserted a groundbreaking new variable in the news media equation: the Millennials.
This is the first time such a discussion has included the Millennials, a generation consisting of people born between the early ’80s and ’90s; a category nearly every person in their teens and twenties falls into today.
Poindexter organized the event in conjunction with her class, “Journalism, Society and the Citizen Journalist.” She broke up the class into four groups and challenged them to address the problems of journalism in capturing the Millennial generation.
Poindexter told the students to vote for a Millennial representative from each group to speak at the summit.
Among those students is journalism senior Jena Cuellar, who noted that with a college student’s busy schedule, there simply isn’t much time to pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news anymore.
“A lot of the older generation gets this misconception that we don’t care or we don’t want to watch the news,” Cuellar said. “[But] that’s not true. We simply have other ways of receiving the news.”
The stereotype does not end there. Cuellar goes on to claim that the media does not cover Millennial issues or Millennial voices. She recalls reading an article in The New York Times that begrudged Millennials for moving back home with their parents after college instead of “roughing it out” in the real world.
“The [media] is belittling us and talking down [to] us,” Cuellar said. “They’re not ignoring us, but they’re not making us feel good either.”
Douglas Luippold, a Daily Texan columnist and government and journalism senior, agrees, likening the relationship to a crime scene investigation in which the eyewitness’ friend is interviewed instead of the eyewitness. The media doesn’t write for Millennials. They write for the parents.
“Take Fox News, for example,” Luippold said. “News is supposed to reflect reality, yet a person that watches Fox News is living a completely different reality as opposed to someone watching CNN.”
Luippold also notes that mainstream media continually focus on entertainment and conflict instead of what directly affects the Millennials.
In addition to the student panel, the summit will also host a panel of three middle school teachers to discuss the impact of the news on the younger Millennials, often called “Wave Two” Millennials.
At this point Cuellar and Luippold agree the main problem with the news media is the failure to report on topics that directly affect Millennials. The news media has also been extremely resistant in embracing technology as a journalistic medium.
Nevertheless, Poindexter, Cuellar and Luippold hold out hope for the future of news media, calling the summit a “call to arms.”
“Don’t give up on Millennials,” Luippold said. “Don’t treat Millennial issues as Millennial issues. I’m not a homeowner, so I don’t see why I should care about foreclosure rates, but if you explain to me that these foreclosure rates will impact me in this way in the future, then I’ll start to pay attention.”