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August 3, 2004

"News for a New Generation"

Susan Sherr has written an important paper by that title, which is on the CIRCLE website. She interviewed producers of newspapers, magazines, tv shows, and websites that are specifically aimed at youth. She also conducted focus groups of the youth themselves.

The producers believe that young people have very short attention spans, are easily impressed by fancy visual presentations, and are mainly interested in practical news about local issues--things that may affect them directly. One said, "So for instance while most papers might lead with something really important that happened in the UN that day, we're more likely to focus on, you know, a rapist caught in a neighborhood where a lot of our readers live." Another said, "like on the money page, it's not going to be about stock, company mergers, and you know the New York Stock Exchange guy resigning, it's going to be about how to keep a job, how to get a job, what to do if your boss is a jerk, are they reading your e-mail, things like that."

Participants in the focus groups suggested that the producers are largely but not completely correct. The young adults claimed that they want more local news and more positive news. "I'll pay attention more to the things that pertain to New Jersey or New York. ... Anything that is global, I don't really pay attention to, I don't know why. If it has anything to do with the president I don't listen to it. It just doesn't interest me."

However, these young people despise tricks, such as visual effects designed to exaggerate the importance of stories or "teasers" that promise a topic that is then delayed. They claim to be turned off by elaborate graphics. They have a low tolerance for statements that they believe they have heard before (for example, that the "war on terrorism" will go on for a long time).

Many of the young adults in these focus groups could not identify Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings, but they reacted extremely negatively to both men. "He looked, like, constipated all the time. He wasn't moving his mouth, he didn't seem like, it kind of is like when you call up and you need help and they don't help you. And they act like they hate their job, that is what he sounded like."

August 3, 2004 4:38 PM | category: press criticism | Comments


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