Students don’t read newspapers Shock!

Sherlock Holmes in "The Red-Headed League.
Jim’s fellow students always took the piss out of him when he read the daily mail (Image via Wikipedia)

Given that this is a post about newspapers I suppose that could have been “students slammed for not reading” or “students blast quality of newspapers”.

Still, news reaches me that Students aren’t reading newspapers. According to Australian research:

90 per cent of students do not like reading the newspaper, preferring to source news from commercial television or online media.

The report is familiar reading which unfortunate falls foul of a little gratuitous referencing of twitter. But, as is increasingly common, the comments just as interesting and pretty much round-up the relative positions in the debate. They go something like: (my response in italics)

  • Students are lazy or thick – maybe some are. But why does that make them any different from every other walk of life.
  • Newspapers are crap, why would they read them – there is some truth in this.
  • Newspapers are slow; behind the news – but that’s what makes the content different and the best ones know that and have changed their output
  • Newspapers are the only thing that give you what you need not what you want – this view is pompous and self righteous.
  • Students read lots but understand little – ditto.
  • Reading  a newspaper is a democratic responsibility – If you believe that then spend your time fighting the way most media outlets ignore this vital role.
  • Students see the future and have left the sinking ship before newspapers die – maybe they have or maybe they just don’t care. Either way, it’s  the media’s job to persuade them that they are wrong and make them care. It’s not my job to make them buy your product.

All points that will be hotly debated regardless of my view.  But there are two other aspects of this debate that frustrate me.

The first is a personal tick of mine. When I read…

“The future of printed newspapers is looking grim as there is an evident shift towards digital journalism.”

…I bristle.

For me digital journalism is not separate from newspaper journalism.  For me digital journalism is using digital skills to develop stories and content for any platform.  Not a medium in itself. But that’s just me.

The other is the idea that students should read newspapers to get the news. Forgetting the debate about the amount of news in newspapers, that misses the big, elephant in the room sized, point. Journalism students should read newspapers because they are students of journalism.

As one commentator (a journalism student as it happens) said

Journalism students should engage in all media forms including radio, tv, print and online. That way, you’re at an advantage – learning different ways and being able to differentiate various styles of writing.

A comment that echoes an earlier commentator

I think it is poor form for students who ‘study’ the media to disregard entire media formats and opt for banal, entertainment driven commercial television news as an alternative

The last part is a value judgement (which kind of ironic given their point) but you get the idea.

As a student of journalism, don’t read newspapers just for the news. Since when has news been a newspaper story anyway.   You read a newspaper because it is part of the landscape you will be working in. You are not just a consumer of news anymore.

If you are studying journalism, seek it out in all it’s forms, good or bad, and learn from it.

Let’s, for one second, imagine newspapers will die. Wouldn’t it be great to have an understanding of how they died so you don’t make the same mistakes?

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8 Replies to “Students don’t read newspapers Shock!”

  1. The shame for me is that students who don’t read newspapers are missing out on the joys of discovery.

    Think of it this way. Online news allows consumers to read what they’re interested in. Straight to sport. Sort it to AFL coverage. Or politics. Or entertainment.

    TV offers 30sec to 2mins on no more than 12 stories a day. Formulaic and predictable. Radio offers fresh stories, but again only a limited number of breaking and updating yarns.

    Newspapers are, by design, able to offer more of a world view. The mix of politics, local and national events, scandal, community … you may not have been wanting a story on maternity nurses at Royal North Shore, but open the SMH and there it is and boy, aren’t you glad you saw it and convinced your sister-in-law to shift to RPA instead.

    The other pressing question for me is: Who will fund newsrooms in the new media world order? Sure, news will continue, but I fear for the depth of experience, the broad general knowledge, the scope of specialisation and the willingness to invest in big stories that we’ve enjoyed – and not questioned – for decades.

  2. It’s not that students are not reading newspapers, they are, it’s that they are getting their news from multiple sources, including online newspapers. They just don’t want a physical paper and they don’t want to pay for it. The Web has created a culture of “free” information and students are not willing to shell out money for something they know they can get for free.

    The obvious problem is how do we monetize something that nobody wants to pay for?

  3. David and ex-night editor

    I agree that the issue of how we make this digital stuff pay is something that needs sorting.

    I suppose my point was that as a student of journalism, rather than student(which in some of the debate seems to be shorthand for feckless young person) it doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad or dying. The importance or otherwise to democracy is not at issue. In the purest academic sense they should be engaging with it.

    To ignore it is a bit like studying to be a doctor but ducking out of class when they do the bowel stuff because ‘its all a bit dirty down there’ and “anyway, I want to be a plastic surgeon”. Good doctors know a bit about everything then specialise. Good students should do the same.

  4. newspapers should be go away, no young people read them, their dead. Electronics are used more than anything, and their more accessible, most people have internet on their phone. 🙂
    THE END!

  5. Wow. (Insert sad face emoticon here.)


    “newspapers should be go away” and “their dead”? Really?

    You just made the perfect example of why young people, as I am assuming you are, SHOULD be reading the paper. The propensity of “young people” today to write/type in a texting format is horrific and abominable. It is also an insult to the English language. I’m going to help you out here…. “Their” is possessive, “They’re” is the contraction of “they” and “are”. Jeez.
    Ps. I, too, am a “young person”.

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