In My Words: News Engagement Day focuses on ways we consume verifiable information
In this opinion column, Rochelle Ford, dean of the Elon School of Communications, touts the importance of engaging with the news on a regular basis.
The following column by Rochelle Ford, dean of the Elon School of Communications, was published in The Burlington Times-News and the Greensboro News & Record.
By Rochelle Ford
As a society, we propagate misconceptions about how young people engage with news today.
One of the prevailing inaccuracies is that millennials and Generation Z just don’t consume news. Because they don’t read a newspaper or watch the evening news with the regularity of previous generations, many say they aren’t consuming news. That is just plain false.
Gen X and baby boomers still watch TV news, listen to news on the radio and occasionally read the newspaper. Older boomers and the “silent generation” (those born before World War II) often are the most dedicated newspaper, news magazine and news radio consumers.
The great generational equalizer – or divider, depending on who you ask – is technology, which has expanded the way we consume news.
Did you scroll through your Twitter feed today? Post on Instagram? Listen to a podcast on your way across town? You are engaging with the news. It is just in a different form, a different package.
A 15-year-old might not be able to name the local meteorologist, but that teenager can certainly name their favorite influencers on social media. Often these influencers discuss news items.
Times have changed and so have the ways we receive our news. But news is still vital to our society and our democracy.
News provides insights into what is happening locally, nationally and globally. News focuses on events, decisions and actions that have an impact on people. The greater the impact – politically, economically, socially, culturally – the more likely a news story will spread. Consider the traditional qualities of news: timeliness, proximity, rareness/uniqueness, conflict, consequence and prominence. The more of these qualities a story has based on verifiable information, the more likely people will share this news.
Although some people may villainize the news industry, they still rely on news to stay informed.
The key to news being helpful is that it should be based upon accurate and verifiable information. What we teach at Elon University is that our students should hold each other and the news industries to the highest ethical standards of truth, accuracy and fairness.
So where do you get your news?
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, I urge you to share how you get your news and participate in national News Engagement Day. (This is not to be confused with other celebrations slated for Oct. 2 – such as National Fried Scallops Day, National Custodial Worker Day, and National Name Your Car Day. All real events, apparently.)
On News Engagement Day, we encourage individuals around the globe – including Alamance County – to read, watch, listen to and discuss news. And while you do that, share the hashtag #newsengagementday to let others know how you find your news.
This is an initiative started in 2014 by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, better known by its acronym AEJMC. The nonprofit consists of more than 3,700 educators and media professionals devoted to promoting high standards in journalism and communication education and defending the freedom of communication.
How will Elon University celebrate News Engagement Day – and by extension our First Amendment rights?
First, our students will serve as town criers at our morning College Coffee event, wearing tri-corner hats, ringing bells and shouting the day’s headlines to passersby. At the caffeinated gathering, we will also have a table reserved for attendees to write down how they define news, and we’ll take photos of people engaging with the news.
Additionally, our own faculty and staff will use social media to share how they consume the news.
So, I invite you to join us on Oct. 2 in celebrating News Engagement Day and tweet, share, post #newsengagementday using Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to throw an @eloncomm tag on there, too.
Continue to engage with news each and every day. And maybe enjoy a fried scallop or two on News Engagement Day just for good measure.