The relationship between college students and journalism brings about important conversation about the efficiency of modern-day media.
In 2018, social media is one of the main ways news is distributed. In an era where “fake news” has become a common term, college students have become more skeptical about the information they consume.
According to Pew Research Center, 68 percent of adults in the U.S. get their news through social media. The study showed that many are skeptical about the news they read on these platforms and 57 percent of people believe the news to be inaccurate. Despite the general distrust, 36 percent of people say the news has helped them, compared to 15 percent who said it confused them.
College students are the primary consumers of news on social media and they are the most critical. A majority of users who receive their news on social media reported it does not improve their understanding of current events.
Senior business management major, Reggie Bland, revealed he gets his news primarily on social media and iPhone’s “News” apps. Bland is sometimes cautious of the news he reads online.
“When I find something I feel is skeptical, I usually research the information,” Bland said. “Reading news from social media gives a wide range of current things going on, but most are negative that get a lot of attention and go viral. Most of the information can be incorrect, so I think social media does not give you the full picture.”
Most social media users believe the news they receive isn’t completely accurate, yet they still read them. Twitter Moments, for example, is a feature Twitter launched in 2015 during a critical time for the company’s livelihood. Through location algorithms, Moments distributes the top news stories of the day in politics, pop culture, economics, lifestyle and more. Essentially, Twitter is running a news team within their app. Former Al Jazeera and TV journalist Andrew Fitzgerald spearheaded Moments by curating editorial content and descriptions for each moment.
“We want to bring the best of what is happening on Twitter to users who might be new to Twitter, or who don’t use Twitter all that often,” Fitzgerald told The Verge in 2015. “We want to highlight the best of what is happening on Twitter every day.”
Director of Digital Media and Communication program at APU regional campus and former storytelling coach at USA Today, Pamela Fisher, believes Twitter Moments isn’t very well curated because the news “reads like a supermarket tabloid.”
“It’s all over the place,” Fisher said. “Today is populated largely by news of the bizarre stories: woman in India starved and tortured by brother, Texas mayor hunts alligators to avenge her miniature horse, plane spells its own name wrong, Demi Lovato’s mom tells all. There’s no holistic picture of what’s really happening today in the world — which was the original purpose of a daily newspaper or news show: here’s what you really need to know today that will impact your life.”
However, Fisher pointed out that the best part about social media is access, since print journalism has a production and subscription cost.
“Access is truly beyond many Americans,” Fisher said. “Twitter links alert the public in ‘trending’ to news developments with news site links in an age when the newspaper is rarely delivered to the door and few turn on the 6 p.m. news. And that’s a good thing.”
Since the launch of Moments, other social media platforms have followed in similar footsteps. Snapchat catapulted their Discover feature around the same time, which showed content from brands like Vice News, ESPN, National Geographic and more.
Many citizens, not just college students, “don’t have the benefit of an education that trains them to be critical consumers of information, able to discern what content is agenda-driven or outright propaganda and how to actually sift through and find news sites practicing fair and balanced journalism, vetting the rumors and innuendo,” Fisher said.
In a 2011 thesis presented to the faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska by Soo Hui Lee, the quantitative study found that “college students have more trust in traditional news sources and view TV as their most important news source. Yet they are more likely to seek out a future news event from online news sources, despite having less trust in them.” The results confirmed that Facebook and Twitter are used as top sources for news among college students.
“This study suggests that news outlets may seek to gain more users of this demographic not by (re-)gaining their trust, but by diversifying their news content so that it is more easily accessible and consumable by college students,” Lee wrote.
Social media is a place college students go to feel connected and stay in touch with friends. However, social media companies and news outlets knew they had to find a way to target young adults to be more engaged with the news. In wake of launching many versions of news feeds on social platforms, college students want more diverse and broad news where it is the most accessible.