How I like my news

This blog post was published on USA TODAY Social Media on June 23, 2010.

As a 20 year old college student, I am seeing a growing disparity between the way traditional newspapers put out their news, and the way my generation—once referred to as the ADD Generation—likes our news.

While there is definitely some truth to the “ADD” label, I prefer the more general term, the “Millennial Generation.” The “Millennial Generation” refers to those of us born in the 80’s and 90’s. We are the largest generation in history—bigger than the Baby Boomers—as well as the most educated, yet least employed.

Although it is impossible to generalize on behalf of an entire generation of people, I will attempt to provide some insight (culled from my own opinions as well as those of my friends) into how we consume our news differently from those before us.

We want it online and we want it free

When it comes to daily news, we’ve never paid for it, and don’t think we need to. We read our news online and will make an exception for print when we travel or when the mood strikes us.

We grew up reading our parents’ newspapers (free to us), and then moved onto the internet. With so many free informative news websites out there—if one site starts charging for their online news, we can easily find another site that doesn’t. One might even argue that the recent slew of pay-per-view or subscription-only online articles have only led to us to become “search” experts—I can almost always find any academic journal articles that I need for college purposes free on the web. It just takes a bit more hustle.

We’re open to all sources of news.

And we’re not exactly “loyal” followers to just one news brand either: most of my friends said they skip around to various sources to gain perspective.

“It’s important to read a bunch of different sources, so you can know which ones are biased and in which ways,” Josh Martin, 23, said. “The same story in Al Jazeera, for example, looks completely different in The Wall Street Journal.”

We skim.

Because we don’t have the time (or attention span) to read huge blocs of text, most of my friends said they tend to just skim over a lot of articles, before selecting only a few to read in their entirety.

“I’m a skimmer, unless I’m really interested in the story,” Samantha Wyatt, 21, said.

“I like interactive articles, with video and photos, that link to cool sites and other relevant articles,” Ben Johnson, 21, said. “The Huffington Post does a good job; so does Slate, and The Daily Get Up.”

In short, we of the Millennial Generation want news to:

Relate to us!

  • We look for news about the work we do and our fields of study
  • Tell us why it matters to us. Give us the underlying, deeper issue of the story, so we’re not left wondering, “so, what?”
  • Use our voice. We want content written by someone of our generation or at least someone who understands us, and tells it like it is
  • Provide concise, casually-toned, honest opinions. Be fresh!
  • Make us laugh! Don’t try to sound smart, just be smart (Like Jon Stewart or Bill Maher )

Let us share!

  • We always want to read things that are recommended by a friend (either by e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook)

Engage us with multi-media!

  • Embed video clips. But keep them short—we tend to only watch footage that lasts less than 2 or 3 minutes
  • Create downloadable Podcasts—I especially likeDemocracyNow! and Thinking About Everything, as well as NPR’s and Slate’s podcasts. I listen on my iPod and at my desk.
  • Give me great photos. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

What we don’t like:

  • Big, blocky paragraphs (more than a few sentences)
  • Older generations writing about “our” issues with a condescending tone, or not even taking our voice into account
  • Articles that don’t give us credit for being smart, active, and wanting to solve problems NOW (not just “inherit” them)
  • Intolerant (racist, homophobic, sexist) and slanted journalism
  • Partisan talking points. So stale.

What we are reading

There are tons of cool websites out there that do an especially good job on some or all of these points (and thus hold our fleeting attention), particularly: GawkerSlateThe Root,FeministingForeign PolicyThe XXGlobal Grind, and Color Lines.

I recently started writing for The Daily Get Up, a relatively new site where any Millennial can publish their thoughts and aggregate interesting links, further amplifying our voice.

As we move toward various mobile, digital and other multi-media platforms, it’s important to keep us in mind as your audience, engage with us in ways we can appreciate: directly, concisely, respectfully, and honestly. Keep it real!

 

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