I still buy books, read magazines and well-crafted prose on paper or in my Kindle
Reliving the days when journalism and much of the news that we know comes from traditional sources
At the end of week two of my blended learning class on publishing, I asked my class to recall times when newspapers, magazines, and other printed sources of news were still around. They were required to tell a story, as if they’re narrating it to their 10-year-old sister or brother.
The idea of reading a newspaper or a magazine sounds mundane for twenty-something College students today. And if you ask how they got their news back then, the common refrain was: my dad, grandad or another relative reads a newspaper in the morning. So, reading a newspaper was more of an afterthought, and the intent of reading the news — coincidental. One student admitted that her only memory of newspapers was for “arts and crafts” and for “wrapping.” I suppose she meant gift-wrapping.
Others never bothered picking up a newspaper, as the radio and the evening news provided enough “news” for the day. It was enough to keep them informed. But as they grew older, they were more woke — to use this generation’s parlance . They also felt the Internet had the upper hand, allowing them to get their dose of news faster, and at their own convenience.
But this came with a but; they were more distracted. Mobile phones kept them abreast with the latest breaking news — as if the world has opened up to them and that proverbial fire hydrant of news in an ocean of information can’t keep up. From a world of scarcity to a web of abundance, today’s Internet does not only provide them news — they get post-fact information, fake news, and trolls.
Twitter, for them, is too toxic. Facebook is for older people (my parents are there, along with my grandparents!). And TikTok, well, only the tweens and some celebrities are enjoying it. Not these twenty-something crowd who is often labelled as digital natives, hoping to move past a world in pandemic.
Why don’t they read newspapers anymore?
You can’t blame this generation for not reading newspapers anymore. Quiz them on current events, however, and you’ll be surprised that they are more aware of what’s happening around them. Just ask my daughter who is in her first year in the University. She knows more than I knew about current events when I was her age.
Media habits have shifted towards digital technology. That’s clear from numerous studies about the growing population of Internet and mobile phone users in the world. And because the likes of Facebook and Twitter are providing you infinite-scrolling stimuli all-day and night, you are hooked. There’s a new term for this addictive behavior: doom-scrolling.
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But here’s a thought: given a generation that is bestowed with the abundance of information — news included, are they well-informed on issues, beyond knowing the headlines? Do they care about the climate change, the State of the Nation, the economic impact of the pandemic in the years to come, or even their financial IQ? Or are they merely consumers of media, racking up hours of binge-watching Netflix shows and YouTube videos of vloggers and digital influencers who talk about specific topics of their interest — and not necessarily news?
I think they do. And they express it in different forms: a digital artwork, a vlog, a podcast, or even a meme — yes, they love memes.
One student says she prefers social media as a source for news because it’s more interactive — by this she means she can react, comment, or share this piece of news to friends, family and like-minded peers.
“The Internet permits everyone to have a say in the issues, thus allowing us to see more perspectives. It also encourages us to be critical thinkers rather than merely accepting the information given to us. Of course, along with this comes the inevitability of biases and fake news, which is why it’s very important to fact-check everything we see online,” says Margaux Isabel Maglonzo, a student of mine in publishing.
If news is that important, news will find you
In describing their journey in discovering news, my students unanimously proclaimed that the Internet is the most convenient and fastest way to get their news. Some even ventured to say that the Internet has led them to meaningful conversations.
This, as we experience and witness the Internet hive cancelling people they disagree with. The cancel culture is a recent concept where people decide to boycott — or stop supporting someone because of their “objectionable opinion or behavior,” according to Merriam-Webster.
Cancel is getting a new use. Canceling and cancel culture have to do with the removing of support for public figures in response to their objectionable behavior or opinions. This can include boycotts or refusal to promote their work. (Merriam-Webster)
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News travels fast in today’s standards. It breaks faster on Twitter — and Instagram. In fact, today’s media quote a lot of celebrities and known personalities who decide to express themselves openly or vaguely — some in cryptic language— on these platforms.
But with speed comes mistakes, lack of context, and deeper meanings that are lost to click-bait headlines and funny memes. Yes, the Internet is interactive; most of the time, raw — thanks to the live-streaming platforms and features that are available on most social networks. And because of the man-made algorithms that decide what news comes out of your feeds, biases and recently, hateful content pervades and spreads — creating more destructive and polarizing conversations around news topics.
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If news is important, will it find you? Yes and no. Yes, because you spend a lot of time looking at the 6-inch screen that lights up and blinks every time your news feed feeds you new content.
No, because you’re only going to spend a few seconds to scan the headline, and move on. Much of the news today is pushed to you via email newsletters, in-app notifications, feeds, and chatbots. You get inundated by all these signals that are turning out to be noise.
Turning to books and other forms of slow journalism can help reduce the ratio between signal and noise, between what matters and what belongs to the bin. On the Internet, information is bottomless, but time is not. It’s finite.
Turn off that smartphone and the wifi, clear your notifications, switch on your “Do not Disturb” option — and spend time reading a book, or a 1,000-word piece in your Kindle or tablet.
Take a pause before you fall into that rabbit hole.
Author’s Note: He writes when inspiration wakes him from a mental stupor, or when he suffers writer’s block (as most writing books would suggest). He also loves to recall and reflect on lessons he shares in his class through this blog.