In 1990, the Times Mirror Centre for the People and the Press (now a Pew Research Centre) released a report called “The Age of Indifference.” Drawing from survey data in the U.S., this report concluded that the young generation of the early ‘90s knew less, cared less, and read newspapers less than young people in previous decades. The study warned,“Their limited appetites and aptitudes are shaping the practice of politics and the nature of our democracy.”
To all my fellow millennials out there, I have to ask. Sound familiar?
Concern with youth news consumption dates back at least to the mid 1970s, and some suggest even earlier. It continues to this day, and is especially present in debates on social media and whether increased connectivity among youth populations necessarily means we’re more “informed.”
I guess it was around my fourth year of journalism school when this notion that “kids don’t care about the news” really started to interest me. As I’ve mentioned, I used to be a kid’s news reporter, and on that job I met so many informed, interested young people who seemed to prove that these concerns were just part of a moral panic fuelled and fanned by the mainstream media themselves.
But I also wondered if those young people, or my news-junkie friends in journalism school, might be the exception rather than the rule.
As I continued to read on the subject, I wondered if there might be a more productive way of looking at this issue. After all, what does it really mean to be “interested in the news”? What does that look like? And whose definition of “news” are we talking about?
Well, a little elbow grease and a few reference letters later, and I was accepted to OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) to explore these very questions. Now, after 8 months of coursework, and 8 more months prepping and navigating the (slightly daunting) waters of ethical clearance, I’ve begun my project in earnest.
Today, I stood in front of a class of grade six students in a Toronto elementary school and told them a slightly condensed version of what I’ve just explained to you, dear readers. Then, I asked them if they would help me try to make sense of all of this — or at least some of this.
Throughout the month, we will work on a mini-unit together exploring the students’ relationships with “news” as a concept. As part of the project, I’ll be sharing some of my journalism skills with the students and asking them to think about what they would publish if they called the shots in the news industry.
As I stood in that classroom today, I couldn’t help thinking about my dad — a high school teacher who specializes in media studies. I always swore I’d never follow in his footsteps. I guess I was only partly serious…
So there you have it: the story of how a wannabe reporter ended up on a detour to through the elementary classroom.
Stay tuned for updates!
P.S. I’m always open to feedback on my topic. What do you think about the statement “kids don’t care about the news”?