The Threat of Real News and Why We Need It

Media and Society Are Threatened When People Don't Want Real News

A picture of a TV wall
••• Photo © Ian McKinnell / Getty Images

For anyone who works in media, information is the currency we use to build a solid brand and help our audience. More and more young people, who are bombarded by information through social media and other sources, say they don't need real news. That choice to remain uninformed will have a damaging effect, not just on the media industry, but on society. That's why there's a threat of real news and why we need it today and tomorrow.

What the Numbers Say about Real News

A Pew Research Center survey reveals a disturbing trend. It shows people ages 18-31 spending about half the time getting real news each day as compared to people 67-84. Other age groups are in the middle of that spread.

What's surprising is that it's normally expected that news consumption will rise as people get older and become more interested in the world around them. This survey shows no indication that will happen.

The Impact of Real News on Media

Most news media professionals have focused their attention on better ways to use technology to get information to people. It's likely that little thought has been given to what happens if people simply don't want news information and how to survive financially because of it.

Those who work in newspapers have had a taste of doomsday, as they face the question "Is the newspaper dead?". Many newspaper companies have embraced one of three survival strategies in response to these changing times.

People in TV news haven't had to face the same dire situation. They remain a trusted source for breaking news. While TV stations have explored how to make money with a media website, it's been a sideline venture, never a lifeline for survival.

But TV stations could face the same dark road as newspapers and radio news departments. Decades ago, cities had several competing newspapers and radio stations all fighting to be first with the story. Today, a city is likely to have only one newspaper, which may be struggling, and few if any radio stations that cover real news in town.

But at least for now, they probably have several TV stations with news departments, because news makes money for them. News is also expensive to produce. If young consumers don't want news, look for some stations to consider closing their news departments, making it possible that some cities might have only one station providing local news coverage.

The Impact of Real News on Society

Even dedicated news people probably remember a time when they didn't care about interest rates or global diplomacy. That likely changed when it was time to buy a house or start a family.

If today's young people choose to remain uninformed as they follow the same life path, they risk making foolish decisions. They simply won't have the knowledge they need to make smart choices about where and how to buy a house or which people to elect into office.

Politicians already have ways to manipulate the media to win elections. Without news media standing in their way, think of what they could do when voters don't have reporters digging for information about candidates.

People may buy a car after simply reading a glossy brochure, not knowing their dream ride was recalled several times because they don't watch news. They also missed all the news stories about crime in the neighborhood where they just bought a house, putting their family in danger.

How Real News Turns People into News Consumers

News media pros have to put on their salesman's hat to convince young people that news has value to their lives. It's apparent these people aren't figuring that out on their own.

Offering more local news is one way to do that. When news is about their neighborhood, their school and their community, even those who shun news will realize the need to stay informed.

The Pew Research Survey showed that while young people spend half the time on news as their parents or grandparents, they are still devoting about 45 minutes a day to news. So they're not turned off totally. Real news can be delivered, but it has to be quicker. Hopefully, if people in this age group see the need for news, they will choose to spend more time with it each day.

Finally, the survey shows that while other age groups get their news from TV more than any other source, for those 18-31, it's the Internet in the top spot. Make sure your website gives them real news by reviewing the 10 steps to a successful media website. Your company's long-term health may depend on it.

Older people have worried for generations that there's something dramatically wrong with young people. There's nothing wrong with today's youth or young adults. They're just growing up in a changing world. For those in media, it's time to adapt to their needs to ensure they become dedicated news consumers.