Re-thinking journalism : how young adults want their news

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Zerba, Amy Elizabeth

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The term "young adults" is often used loosely without a clear definition of who this demographic is. This study defines young adults by examining generational differences, their beliefs, uses and nonuses of media, news interests, wants, values for following the news, and expectations and reading experiences of news stories. The uses and gratifications approach and expectancy-value theory provided a framework for this study. Three methodological approaches were used: a secondary data analysis of three national surveys, focus groups and an experiment. The secondary data analysis findings showed the youngest age group (18-24) is leading the new news routine online with news aggregator sites, major and local news sites. The two youngest age groups (18-24 and 25-29) differ from each other and older age groups in their worries, goals, perspectives, beliefs, news interests, media uses, nonuses and political knowledge, and should be studied separately. Stances on social issues and technology are not as clearly defined by age. The findings suggest one's life stage is behind some of the differences. Since no published study to date has conducted focus groups exclusively with nonreaders of print newspapers ages 18-29 to examine their news consumption and nonuses of print newspapers, the present study broke new ground. The findings showed these young adults want searchable, effortless, shorter, more local, accessible anytime news. Both groups (18-24 and 25-29) wanted less negative news, but the younger group justified crime coverage. A few younger group participants expressed a difficult time reading the news and a bias in coverage, especially politics. The experiment used storytelling devices in an attempt to make news writing more digestible, interesting, relevant to young adults' lives, and informative. The findings showed "chunking" text improved perceived comprehension. The device of adding background information, context and a definition improved text recall. The experiment also examined expectations that young adults have prior to reading hard news. For a politics story, experimental group participants expected to understand the story less and have less of an interest than they did. Using these findings, this study suggests ways to get more of this audience (18-29) to tune into the news.



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