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All the news that's fit to click? More teens are turning to nontraditional sources for news. Who do you trust? (media).

It's not that Nathan Hornback doesn't trust the news media. But the 15-year-old from Bonnieville, Kentucky, isn't so sure how different ABC is from NBC or CNN. As he sees it, the way the major media players have merged over the past several years must affect the news. He's just not sure how.

So Hornback has found other sources. He reads news on the Internet, and he even gets news snippets from Jay Leno's monologue. It's a catch-as-catch-can approach, and he's not alone.

An entire nation of teenagers and young adults draw their information from sources other than the traditional evening news or newspapers. Their reasons range from feeling alienated by traditional news to the greater convenience of radio or the Internet. According to an MTV survey, 64 percent of 14- to 24-year-olds get news from the Internet, compared with 55 percent who watch network news and 53 percent who read local newspapers.

But, ironically, other surveys show that teens are least likely to trust the news sources--like the Internet--they turn to most. Teen Research Unlimited found that just 7 percent of teenagers polled trust Internet news, compared with 33 percent who trust what they see on TV and 45 percent of teens who trust the information in newspapers.


Still, today's teens are better informed than those of a generation ago, according to Robert J. Thompson, head of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "If I had to say which 18-year-olds, today's or [those] back in 1982, have a better chance of passing a 50-question exam on what's going on in the world ... absolutely it would be today's."

One reason, Thompson says, is that news seems to be coming at today's teens from everywhere--whether they're browsing the Web or watching CNN in airports. Everywhere, that is, except those old standbys, the nightly news and newspapers.

"The image of a 17-year-old reading a newspaper is almost totally alien to me," Thompson says. "I'm not sure I ever saw it actually happen."

Network news isn't doing much better than print with young viewers. Americans under 18 years old make up just 6 percent of its audience, according to a 1999 Kaiser Family Foundation study. But that low number doesn't surprise Thompson.

"Because of the many choices that cable offers, teens don't have to watch the news by default because there's nothing else," he says. What's more, most teens are online anyway, so it makes sense that they'd pick up news from the Internet, rather than making an active choice to read a paper or turn on the TV.

Besides, some teens say they don't trust the mega-merged corporations that produce TV news. Rich Kmack, 19, of Atlanta, Georgia, says media conglomerates such as AOL/Time Warner make it difficult to avoid conflicts of interest, such as when Warner Brothers films are reviewed by its Time and CNN sister companies. "As much as they want to present facts," Kmack says, he can't imagine there isn't pressure to "get away without having to mention something bad."


Other teens cite a far simpler reason for feeling estranged from television news. don't watch World News and CNN," says Julia Tuohy, 15, of Islip, New York. "It's not meant for teens, and it's not relating to our thought processes."

James Murphy, executive producer of The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather agrees that his program doesn't focus on teens. Teens don't buy the products that advertisers sell on his nightly program, he says.

Tuohy thinks TV news executives need to loosen their ties and think about teens. "I almost feel guilty watching it," she says of current network news. Part of this hesitancy, she says, is because television news is so violent it's as bad as the sort of movies her parents try to keep from her.

Instead, she'd prefer a more mixed, hip approach from networks. "I want a mix of MTV News with stuff we need to know," she says. "I don't need to know P-Diddy's latest record sale, but I want somebody younger reporting. Right now, the news is very three-piece suit."

The News According to Jay

"The United States Navy is training sea lions to protect our ships. They are teaching sea lions how to find bombs. Sea lions will help us, but the French won't."--Current events joke from a Tonight Show monologue.
Teens & News


51% of 14- to 17-year-olds, and
64% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they
 need to keep informed.
39% always followed the news.
33% paying more attention to
 the news lately.
12% paid more attention after
 Sept. 11, but interest has since
 dropped off.


Internet 64%
Radio 56%
Network/Local TV 55%
Local Newspapers 53%
Magazines 50%
Friends 50%
Cable News 49%

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Article Details
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Author:Serchuk, David
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 9, 2003
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