The purpose of this study was to understand how so-called Generation Txt consumes news through several different mediums. We created a survey using Google docs and linked this survey to Face book. The survey contained twenty questions with the overall theme of “How does media affect breaking news to students?
” We received approximately 350 responses, the results which we will break down and analyze herein, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of our methodology and finally discuss the overall importance of this study. Introduction While this may seem a bit of a gross overgeneralization, there is a huge difference – a technology as well as a generation gap, between those who grew up in the digital and wireless information age as an accepted part of life, and those who did not.
While this difference won’t last forever, the fact this that this generation is on the front lines of a fundamentally changing force – to our society, to our economy, to global life as we know it, in every possible way we can imagine, and in some we can not. Nowhere is this more apparent in how so-called “Generation Txt” or Generation Y or sometimes even Z (the demographic currently
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And nowhere is this more striking than their use of mobile technology and the information they consume there from in just about every aspect of their lives – from e-commerce, which is a growing trend in every demographic (approximately $23Billion plus worth of sales will go via MOBILE e-commerce by 2015 if not sooner), to e-learning, to consuming information (including the news) to playing games or just talking with friends via texting or via good old mobile phone.
No information or formal study however, has been done on how prepared this generation (or any generation who uses the internet via any device) for that matter, is to separate fact from fiction, particularly in an age where “real” information is blurring with advertising, astroturfing (product placement or branding of a person running for office for example disguised as unbiased information). Or just the lone blogger in the wilderness. And of course the transition of the “real” read “traditional” or “old” media to online forms.
Not to mention new sources of journalism that are just as credible, but not corporately owned. The problem is however, figuring out what is real and what is not. What is biased and what is neutral. What is news and what is fluff or worse a commercial in news or worse, propaganda’s clothes. And how in particular a certain very vulnerable and impressionable demographic is affected by this, and how they react accordingly. Anyone can put up a website. Thousands are put up every day.
How can one be sure that the information posted there is unbiased, correct and true? Much less “news. ” In an age of viral marketing, a clever website, carrying false “news” can travel via mass emailed link, via social networks, among other things, in the blink of an eye, globally. And that includes the sites of the mainstream media, who have been shown to be consistently biased. There has NEVER been a power like this at the disposal of human kind. We are simply unprepared to deal with this.
However, the fact remains, that this segment, so-called Generation Txt – of society is the first to be affected by a new social phenomenon called “swarming” literally created by “news”, more accurately the announcement, or advertisement, for example, of an event taking place at a certain time and place. Not to mention branding, is more technologically hip, uses social media and is online more. But don’t kid yourself. This is just the first wave. It is going to be everywhere because everyone will have to be at least somewhat computer and internet literate to survive in the new economy.
This is an incredibly powerful tool, for example for everyone from advertisers to political organizers (as has already been proved from the arrival of the so called “Foodie Trucks” in cities selling highly specialized gourmet food merchandise, to the amazing student protest at Gaulludet University in Washington DC, the only college in the country for deaf students, who used texting to overcome their disability and hold a successful campus wide protest using wireless devices with texting ability, that led to the ouster of the then current and hearing college President and the institution of the college’s first deaf president (and this was before Obama even thought of running for U. S. President. )
Colleges across the country are well aware of how tuned in their students are – for example in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy, virtually every college campus has instituted a college wide system that immediately alerts students via the campus wide network of safety alerts on campus property that are sent via all student’s mobile devices. Yet they consistently fail their students in things like teaching them web and media literacy. However the more important questions are what are the implications of this kind of technology, not to mention the content consumed on it, how people interpret what they read on it, much less their behavior in response to what they consume, and if they count it as “verifiable news” or not, and the clear impact it has on human behavior, from individual actions to creating mass movements, and very quickly, especially given people’s clear lack of ability to distinguish fact from fiction.
This study has taken a stab at figuring out trends in such behavior, along with analyzing what other impacts affect people’s interaction with online media, including race, gender and disability bias, critical thinking skills, access to education and the technology in the first place, (the so-called digital divide) use of certain technology and social media sites to begin with (for example Face book has had major problems with privacy concerns and educated people are fleeing from the service), and many people do not use Twitter. It’s a very particular and quirky demographic, particularly when used in combination. And our choice to use the two is a particular failing, considering that fact alone, plus the strategic relationship between the two companies – Face book and Twitter, and the lack of overlap between our targeted demographic. The people in the know about these things are hardly going to answer honestly. And that may be one of the reasons for the interesting anomalies we got at the end of our study, which we will discuss in the appendices. This is not widely known information but information we turned up in subsequent research.
But one look at the following graph, and a bit of knowledge of computer science, with the understanding that the funny round, brightly colored cylindrical things in the center of the diagram below are distributed databases, one of which is widely suspected to be Face book and the other is MySpace, by many civil libertarian groups for example the ACLU, and the Electronic Freedom Foundation, of being at a minimum a commercial seller of one’s private information, and at worst, a part of a highly secret government black box program called TIA , are very worried about Face book in particular, and this may explain exactly why we got such weird anomalies in OUR study. Figure 1: Total Intelligence Awareness Schematic as presented to Congress by the NSA
However, whatever the reason behind the anomalies, this study still has merit, and we believe will add to the existing and growing body of literature on what students in particular are doing in terms of consuming information, deciding whether it counts as “news” or not, and recording how they react in response. Even the disparities in how respondents answered our survey are interesting, which we will show in the appendix. Everyone except those who used Twitter, double responded (at least) to the medium they used to consume information they considered “news. ” Yet very few people could identify that they had heard about one of the biggest news stories of the year, and a question we included in our study because of that – the disaster in Haiti – on television. Which means that the survey respondents ARE NOT getting their news, or the information they consider to be so, from television. So they are getting it from somewhere else.
Unless a little birdie told them, it looks to us that they saw it online, probably through Face book, although the results are not conclusive and the fact that they don’t remember, per the results of the study, is also part of a cultural racism that is another subject we will discuss later. But the fact they are not getting their news from television, but are getting their entertainment from it (again, results from the survey showed us that, as we will discuss) is interesting, but is a phenomenon that won’t last very long, given what is coming down the pipe in terms of wireless apps and entertainment. But the disconnect between news and TV already for this generation is an interesting phenomenon in and of itself, particularly since Face book is already linked to Twitter.
And the privacy, not to mention other censorship issues surrounding Face book, while never proved, and there is no article published, merely rumors floating in the IT sphere, are that Google, who has the government account for the Department of Homeland Security, is tied directly into Face book. As well as other social networking sites. That is how they “found” the Salahis after they “broke into” the White House state dinner. At least that’s the official story. Why were they looking is another matter. But ask yourself, how would the Secret Service know how to “find” or even where to look for, the pictures the couple took at the event posted on their Face book page. Or even that the Salahis had one to begin with.
Again, the official story is that Face book contacted the Secret Service. But how would FACEBOOK know how to look or why? That means there is some serious data mining going on there and some high level communication. So that story doesn’t fly either. Since the couple had already been cleared by the Pentagon, and the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security are already linked, there is a very good possibility that fundamental privacy issues are at stake here, not to mention censorship. These are not issues that are widely written about, known about, or even reported on outside of a very tightly knit nonprofit advocacy group in policy land in DC.
And are issues technically outside the scope of our study. We learned about them AFTER we launched our study on Face book. However, we thought that they were serious enough to mention here, particularly given that we might have accidentally skewed our study as a result. What we aim to do is fairly limited in scope. Which is to analyze how students consume and react to what they hear and see as accurate information that they interpret as “news,” and how they respond accordingly. The answers and information we got back from our survey are far from conclusive, which is due, primarily to our own failures in survey methodology and what we did not know at the beginning of this process.
We will point those failings out at the end of this paper. Now that we have been through this process once, and have started wading through the research that is available, we understand what we did right, and more importantly, what we did wrong. And how to correct those errors next time, as well as make up for said mistakes through our research. Nevertheless, we hope this study also helps future researchers in their own endeavors to understand a new phenomenon shaping human behavior and society in fundamental and yet unforeseen, much less than understood ways. Literature Review 1. Alboher, M. (2008, Nov 12). Keeping Up, When your industry changes.
New York Times. Discusses a meeting of professional journalists, both with “new” and “old” media backgrounds, who hold a debate about the impact of new media on consumption of news. They reach the conclusion that those who are disconnected from the wired world, either in producing or consuming information (they limit their discussion to “news,” are both disconnected, behind the times and will have a hard time catching up. However the article is limited in its use of mobile devices used, does not discuss the distinction between “news” and “gossip” and unsubstantiated rumor, and completely dismisses perhaps the greatest impact of the internet on news of all.
Not just consumers consumption of it, and where, but their creation of it, and how mainstream journalists are starting to be scooped by this new brand of prosumer journalists who happen to be where no “professional” dares to go. 2. Al-Obaidi, J. , Lamb-Williams, C. , & Mordas, V. (2004). The king of all mediums: a field study of college student’s use of mediums for news. International Journal of Instructional Media, 31(3), 239-256. This is a study that seems to contradict the overwhelming evidence of studies of both the demographic we studied and the population overall, that claims that for example, students at the University of Alabama only accessed the internet for news 1% of the time.
However since this extremely old data (collected almost 11 years ago), the stunning advancement in technology and options for mobile devices almost makes this irrelevant now. We will however use this study to show how college students use different forms of media to access news and different forms of information, and how well they remembered the information they consumed on different mediums (i. e. how much different consumption via different technologies affected them with regards to the information received). 3. Berlau, J. (2002, April 1). Online Rumor Mill Spins Its Own Myth; Snopes. com Is Presented by Some Media Outlets as an Unbiased Arbiter of Rumors and Hoaxes. But Critics Say Its Liberal Bias Causes It to Create Urban Legends of Its Own. Insight on the News, 18, 15+.
Retrieved May 4, 2010 We will rely on this article as source material to discuss one of the issues we consider important about the consumption of news and student’s behavior and reaction to it – namely the spread of the false rumor and gossip parading as “real news. ” This is a real and growing phenomenon, and one which we consider a force to consider, particularly given the issue of media literacy, almost instantaneous news coverage 24/7, and the inability to differentiate fact from fiction. 4. Bucy, E. P. (2003). Media Credibility Reconsidered: Synergy Effects Be between On-air and Online News. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 80(2), 247+.
Retrieved May 4, 2010 Discusses the credibility gap between online and offline journalism as the continued trend to consume news online increases unabated. While this is slanted towards the undeniable snobbery of a mainstream journalist’s perspective (since there are credible citizen journalists online) it raises the important questions and contains the statistics we intend to use in our study about movement across all demographics to online media consumption and the failure of ability to sort out fact from fiction, a real danger in the wild west of online information consumption, including so-called “news” consumption. 5. Chase, M. , & Mulvenon, J. (2002).
You’ve Got Dissent! Chinese Dissident Use of the Internet and Beijing’s Counter-Strategies. Santa Monica, CA: Rand. P. 1. Retrieved May 4, 2010 While the entire book is a fascinating read and resource to be used in our study, the very first chapter deals with precisely the issue of the internet’s power to mobilize masses of people using “news” albeit from untraditional sources and citizen organizers and journalists, to organize mass movements. The book also discusses the Chinese government’s movements to squash such dissent. Given the moves in the U. S. , especially with laws like FISA and net neutrality on the table, not to mention the U. S.
military’s ownership of the majority of airspace in this country, this will be used to discuss issues like First Amendment rights, censorship, mass movement organization, the rise of independent journalism, the danger of mass mobs, the manipulation of such technology and methods for undemocratic purposes, especially against our main contention that people, especially students, have no real critical reasoning skills, much less media literacy, or are able to interpret what is real information or “news” or not. 6. Demski, J. (2009). Face book Training Wheels: A Secured Social Networking Site Allows Schools to Incorporate the Technology into Academics While Preparing Students for the Perils of Online Communities. T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), 36(4), 24+. Retrieved May 4, 2010 Questions even the use of using Facebook either in academia or by students as an insecure technology that even students do not trust.
This will be used in several ways in our final report. Our potential failure in methodology and information gathering, as this may have influenced respondents’ answers to our questions, and furthermore use of Face book at all in any academic setting, further casting light on professors who even encourage its use in any classroom setting or for research of any kind, especially without warning students of the inherent dangers of particularly THIS social medium. 7. Dibean, W. , & Garrison, B. (2001). How Six Online Newspapers Use Web Technologies. Newspaper Research Journal, 22(2), 79. Retrieved May 4, 2010 Discusses in depth how traditional “old” media are attempting to transition online.
Will be used to discuss how students interact with news, how they use it, why they use it, how effective it is, and how and why these efforts are effective or not, within the broader framework we have set out about media literacy, student ability to understand legitimacy of sources online, and even what constitutes “news. ” 8. Diddi, A. , & Larose, R. (2004). The Making of News Junkies: Uses and gratifications and the formation of news habits among college students in the new media environment. Conference Papers — International Communication Association. While this study makes the point that more and more mainstream news organizations are integrated into the internet, thus fears that college students aren’t getting informed by “reading a newspaper” by going online, as growing numbers of studies shows they are to get their news, and therefore are uninformed, are unfounded, it does not address the issue that newspapers and TV (i. e.
mainstream, traditional media) are the only way to access “real news,” with no discussion about media bias, much less internet reliability, which is a major failing of this study. 9. Diddi, A. , & LaRose, R. (2006). Getting hooked on news: uses and gratifications and the formation of news habits among college students in an internet environment. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(2), 193-210. This study claims that most students still rely on cable, not the internet for news, despite the fact that students are all hooked into college’s wired systems. This will again be used as a comparative study, to determine if our data points and case studies are valid or not.
Given the increased used of wireless devices, even in the last four years, we believe this study is outdated, as is its findings. The technology and its impact on people’s behavior, of whatever demographic is moving that quickly. When you have Congress people using Twitter to change votes on the Hill, such studies start to look ludicrous if not antiquated. 10. Ebo, B. (Ed. ). (1998). Cyberghetto or Cybertopia? : Race, Class, and Gender on the Internet. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. Retrieved May 4, 2010 This book is a comprehensive overview and will be used as such as a reference to discuss issues related to biases online in not only news coverage, how students interpret it, but how people are even able to access it (the so called digital divide.
The book looks at things like niche marketing and targeting that students are not aware of, that guides the news they read, not to mention the advertising they see (embedded often in “news”, the ability of the disabilities community to access the internet, gender bias in technology and marketing, not to mention news coverage and who presents the news, and the resulting impact on how students react to such coverage. Overall an important research tool for our study on socioeconomic issues that reach far outside of cyberspace, but affect the issues inside it. 11. Elasmar, M. G. , & Carter, M. E. (1996). Use of E-mail by College Students and Implications for Curriculum. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 51(2), 46+. Retrieved May 4, 2010
One of the issues we failed to address, and this will be discussed in our methodology section, is the issue of viral marketing and spreading of information, including news through email, which of course students, like everyone else, uses constantly. Including forwarding links to FALSE information, news and gossip. This is one of the reasons that this medium, particularly given the ease with which false “news” and astroturfing has the potential to create huge societal unrest, riots, swarming, and other societal phenomenon, that used the wrong way or for unethical purposes, is highly dangerous. 12. Gattiker, U. E. (2001). The Internet as a Diverse Community: Cultural, Organizational, and Political Issues. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved May 4, 2010
Again, because the “news” and “students” do not exist in a vacuum, nor does the internet, this book will be used as a resource tool to examine some of the other forces brought to bear on a medium that affects a much broader swath of society, to give some perspective about how students as a demographic are specifically affected within it. 13. Gormley Jr. , W. (1977). How cross-ownership affects news-gathering. Columbia Journalism Review, 16(1), 38-46. This article primarily discusses the consolidation of traditional media thanks to the relaxation of anti-merger and anti-trust laws in the United States during the last two decades, and its further impact on “news” as it has migrated online.
It further discusses how consumers understand (or more likely do not) that only a few major media conglomerates dictate what people see and hear through a vast spider web of outlets, from traditional to non traditional outlets. This means that a very small amount of information is actually disseminated, despite the proliferation of sources through which it can be consumed. This study will be used to discuss how students understand what “news” actually is, along with media bias, and what actually constitutes “news” rather than “official propaganda” (such as reporters solely relying on government sources than interviewing independent voices or those across the political spectrum). 14. Hepler, T. (2009). Sustainable Taco Trucks in LA’s Foodie Scene. YourDailyThread. com
This article discusses a growing phenomenon in cities, but of course applicable to students and the younger demographic who also lives and goes to school in such communities (as Foodie Trucks are a nationwide phenomenon) of how students respond to information they interpret as “news. ” The interpretation of information as “news” is something that has not been widely studied as indeed we did not formally differentiate in our own work, an issue we will identify in our methodology section, but also as an issue in understanding how students identify, interpret, retain, and even are able to understand what is “news” vs. information they can use. Foodie Trucks, for the uninitiated, are specialized roving vans, which sell specialized gourmet products, and advertise their specific time and arrival at a certain time and place to their growing online database of fans, often through social media sites.
While this is not “news” it could certainly be interpreted as such, and as such, we will discuss this phenomenon, since integrated advertising has made its way even into the evening news and certainly social networking arenas. Something that consumers, particularly the demographic we are studying, are not necessarily aware of, or how it affects their behavior. It is also a perfect example, albeit a benign one, of how this kind of mobile technology and social medium can be used to create mass gatherings for all kinds of purposes. 15. Hoplamazian, G. , & Feaster, J. (2009). Different news media, different news seeking behaviors: identifying college students’ patterns of news media use. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1-33.
This study shows that college students view news consumption as a non necessary “hobby” rather than a vital part of every day life, and aren’t wedded to any particular medium to access it. This would actually suggest that since students are so nonchalant about new in general, that they would turn to the easiest way to access it – which is online and through the mobile devices they possess, which further supports our main thesis and will be used to make that point. 16. Knobloch-Westerwick, S. , Sharma, N. , Hansen, D. L. , & Alter, S. (2005). Impact of Popularity Indications on Readers’ Selective Exposure to Online News. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 49(3), 296+. Retrieved May 4, 2010 This study is very interesting in that it compares news consumption of old media and new media (i. e.
news consumed via newspapers and online), and looks at how it is assimilated and even consumed. The conclusion the authors reach is that online news and information is actively filtered because of the technology available, which leads those who rely on online news and information retrieval to be actively selective in what they seek out in terms of “news” and other information. This also has an impact on a variety of issues that we will discuss, primarily in our methodology section, but also in the section about the lack of information students in general have about the world, the manipulation of the internet in general already by the mainstream players who control it (i. e.
Google and Yahoo) not to mention the government, and the growing censorship that exists online, even in the United States, that students, not to mention the population at large are not aware of. 17. Lariscy, R. , Avery, E. , Sweetser, K. , & Howes, P. (2009). An examination of the role of online social media in journalists’ source mix. Public Relations Review, 35(3), 314-316 This article, based on a survey of over 200 “old media” journalists discusses how such journalists are not adapting to new media in style, content or approach. Even more shocking, the survey found only 3% of working journalists considered the internet and social media to be consumer’s most used source for consuming news.
Given the fact that one of Barack Obama’s main campaign strategies was to outmaneuver the mainstream news by using his own internet sites and email lists to basically create his own “news channels” via You Tube, Face book, and other social news sites, this is both myopic in the face of a shrinking industry, and dangerous to the point of evisceration of the First Amendment, since if traditional media, which at least still today has some semblance of neutrality and reliability, goes belly up (which they are increasingly doing thanks to lack of profitability – see article above) who do the public turn to as the watchdogs of democracy – the so called Fourth Estate, in the digital age, when nobody else is watching? 18. Leone, R. (2006, December).
Mashup Man: An Online Innovator Uses an Ingenious Fusion of Imagery and Databases to Present Information in Exciting New Ways. American Journalism Review, 28, 10+. Retrieved May 4, 2010 This article will be used to discuss the new developments in online journalism that use the medium in brand new ways to attract viewership, increase information retention, and use credible sources at the same time – the model of the new “credible online journalism” we have been seeking. We will use this as an example of what is possible in the digital age, and how students can begin to both use the internet in new ways and consume the information they find, not to mention cross check the information they find for credibility. 19. Lewis, Seth C. (2008).
Where young adults intend to get news in five years. Newspaper Research Journal, 29(4), 36-52. This was one of the most shocking articles we uncovered in our research that was conducted by survey only two years ago. It showed via used of survey, that most college students thought that in five years time they still thought they would consume their news via traditional outlets (i. e. a newspaper). Not only does this bespeak of a lack of critical thinking and analysis in general of those interviewed about their own behavior, but about the world around them. Even campuses use online alert systems in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy to alert students of campus wide threats.
Failure to understand this phenomenon, even within Generation Txt, either points to a failure in the methodology used by the study, or some of the stupidest students on the planet who participated in this survey. Failing that, it shows a horrific lack of understanding, generation if not society wide, of the societal impact of instant information consumption and the impact it has psychologically on human behavior, across every demographic. We will discuss this as a growing threat to Democracy, for one, in our paper. 20. Loundy, M. (2009). It’s all about meaty content. News Photographer, 64(2), 18. The article talks about the consolidation of old and new media, and the attempts of traditional journalists to adapt to a new medium – the social web.
It will be used to directly contradict the articles that say that the internet and social media is not relevant in how students, or indeed the general population at large is migrating in ever increasing numbers online to consume information of all kinds, including the news, and how this affects their behavior. 21. Morgan, D. (2008). The end of the shared media experience? Advertising Age, 79(11), 30. This is a bit of a convoluted article that tries to make the point that since people aren’t consuming news from traditional sources anymore, and migrating online, they aren’t either retaining the information they consume online, or discussing it with others verbally.
This is a completely ridiculous argument to make, since the whole point of social media is to be able to share and forward articles and news to one’s friends online and the impact of such information is the same as a conversation. Furthermore, since often this information can be used for say research in a college paper, the argument the author makes about student’s retention of such information is even more fallacious if not ill informed. We will make adequate use of this lack of understanding of how social media works by a working journalist to show exactly how “old” media journalists still don’t “get it. ” 22. Nielson, D. (2004). Newspaper readership disconnect at J-School. New York Times.
This study mainly focuses on the general lack of interest in particularly undergraduate students’ interest in news period. The author argues that students use the internet for purely entertainment purposes and must be forced, particularly in their undergraduate years, to even use the internet to consume news, not to mention points out their appalling lack of knowledge of current events. This reinforces our underlying thesis that students, while they do in fact rely on the internet for information and even “news” when it catches their attention, have no real understanding or filter in determining fact from fiction, or indeed understanding bias when they see or hear it.
Another important social phenomenon in the age of a burgeoning democratic outlet for information, with a largely uninformed pubic, of all ages, with no education or filter to determine what is real or not. 23. Obaidi, J. A. , Lamb-Williams, C. , & Mordas, V. (2004). The King of All Mediums: A Field Study of College Students Use of Mediums for News. International Journal of Instructional Media, 31(3), 239+. Retrieved May 4, 2010 This article hits the nail on the head about the issue of media literacy when consuming news online, particularly for students in the growing trend to consume news online. It will be used as our primary source to buttress our arguments ab