Online news

Young people and the news: a problem we must consider

Many of the problems we face in community journalism are the same ones our predecessors had to cope with. Reluctant sources, personnel problems, slow ad sales, competition, ethical dilemmas – the problems look different in 2012, but they’re essentially the same old issues re-framed for today’s media world.

But we do have one unique issue for 2012: Will the next generation of readers read newspapers, or will they even seek out news as we define it, at all?

So spend a few minutes with these two online articles. They’re talking about young people and where they get – or don’t get – news. And though they take different approaches, they agree that tomorrow’s readers will not approach news the same way our generation has. I remember our saying, a couple of decades ago, that young people may not read newspapers now – but just wait till they get married and have a family and a mortgage. Then they’ll read the paper. And maybe that was true then. No longer.

Young people frequently think, one of these articles points out, that if something is really news, it will find THEM. And the way it’ll find them is through their social networks.

What does all that mean for us? At the Center, we do a lot of thinking about that. And while we are not sure about the answers yet, one thing we do know is that it means that every newspaper needs to develop a dynamic social media presence. Social media are not an afterthought – more than 900 million people worldwide are on Facebook, and to be irrelevant on Facebook is to be irrelevant to the lives of many of those readers. And the same goes for newspapers that see Facebook as just another publication platform rather than an interaction with their audience.

The real question, and the one we’re looking into at the Center, is how to incorporate a social media strategy into the life of every Texas community newspaper. If you can see that your social media strategy is helping you reach new readers and making your newspaper more relevant to your community, we’d like to hear from you. No one has all the answers; we need to look for them together as an industry.

By Kathryn Jones Malone

Kathryn Jones Malone is co-director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism. She began her career as a staff writer at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, then worked as a staff writer for the Dallas Times Herald and The Dallas Morning News; as a contract writer for The New York Times; as a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly magazine; as editor of the Glen Rose Reporter; and as a freelance writer for numerous state, regional and national magazines. She teaches journalism at Tarleton State University.