Younger generations consume less news, study says

Youths are earning the reputation of being the most uninformed age group in America, according to a study done by Pew Research Center in early October.

According to the survey, younger generations follow the news substantially less than older generations. The Millennial generation (18-31 year olds) follow the news, whether by newspaper, television, radio or Internet, for an average of 46 minutes a day. This is only about half of the time the Silent generation (67-84 year olds) spends consuming news, who reportedly spend about 84 minutes a day

This number only decreased with generations — the Boomer generation (48-66 years old) spent about 77 minutes a day and Generation Xers (32-47 years old) spent about 66 minutes a day.

Over the past decade, these numbers have remained stagnant, causing many news organizations to worry that their audiences are disappearing, according to the study. There are several speculated reasons for this decrease in news consumption. Pew Research Center emphasizes that younger people simply don’t enjoy the news as much as older people. One survey found that only 29 percent of Millennials claimed to enjoy the news, compared with the 58 percent of Silents and Boomers who did.

When asked how many minutes a day he spent following the news, Daniel Ruff, a freshman in Engineering, replied: “Zero. I find the news to be rather annoying … I find no pleasure in watching it, and I’d rather do something else.”

However, several students have reported that their habits are not in line with the survey. Some even claim to watch, read or listen to news for more than an hour each day.

“Part of it is educating myself, but also I enjoy it,” said Michael Neal, a freshman in DGS, as he folded a newspaper in his hands. “I enjoy knowing what’s going on. It’s kind of fun to follow a newspaper like people follow TV shows.”

Even people from older generations argue that it isn’t quite fair to say that the Millennial generation doesn’t care about what’s going on in the news.

“It’s a little bit easy to over-interpret the decline as being more profound than it is,” said Eric Meyer, professor of journalism at the University.

Although he admitted that the pace at which readers consume more news as they age is getting slower, he said that news consumption by young people has always been a concern.

“When I was in my twenties and working at the Milwaukee Journal in the ‘70s, we were terribly worried that my age group wasn’t reading. Well now, we are the people who are the big readers,” he said.

David Tewksbury, a professor of communication at the University, also recognized that his students were not paying attention to the news as much. From his specialized research on news consumption and the media industry, he offered other explanations for the declining rates.

“News exposure has just been going down over time as people have more choices,” Tewksbury said. “It went down in the ‘30s as people spent more time going to movies. It (went) down in the ‘50s and ‘60s as people … spent more time watching television. And it’s been going down as the number of options that people have on television and in electronic media has been going up.”

This change in news format is one of the reasons why news organizations such as Pew Research Center are so concerned about declining news consumption. As more people turn to the Internet instead of television and newspapers, obtaining funding for news production becomes more difficult, Meyer said.

“The challenge to the industry in that case is figuring out how to make money off of it. If they can’t make money off of it, then they’ll stop doing it,” he said.

Tewksbury’s research has led him to study many trends on news consumption and age over the years. Pointing out a few of his data sets, he said he doesn’t see a very clear downward trend in the younger generation and their interest in news.

“Generally, no, I’m not going to say that younger folks are increasingly turned off from politics or moving away from politics. I don’t think that’s true … that makes me optimistic,” he said.

Zila can be reached at [email protected]