Welcome to the digital natives

Young people’s familiarity with social media became very clear to the journalism team at Glamorgan on the first interview day for would-be students starting in October 2013. Not only do they use social media as their main source of information, but they have a sophisticated understanding of the way they work.We felt this was the first year we had encountered a consistent group of ‘digital natives’.  Their use of Twitter was the most striking sign of this. They seem to make a very clear distinction between the social network with which they communicate on Facebook and their contacts on Twitter. Facebook is for people they know, Twitter for the wider world.

While they follow celebrities and the news about them on Twitter, they also follow journalists and media news feeds. Twitter is their portal to the sites on which they rely for news – BBC, Sky, Daily Mail or The Times. They seem to pay particular attention to topics which are trending. All of them seemed confident in their ability to distinguish between celebrity gossip and reliable fact, based on an assessment of the source.

It was interesting to discuss with the applicants the reading habits of their contemporaries. All but one felt the younger generation would never read longer, detailed journalism. If they’re right, there are serious implications for investigative journalism – and for the public’s understanding of the complexity and background of many stories.

For a school of journalism, the message is clear. We must continue to develop our courses to reflect the communication methods which our students and their generation use. But we must also retain a commitment to journalism in the public service which does attempt to explain the world – not just to report it.

About James Stewart

Senior Lecturer in Radio Journalism. http://staff.glam.ac.uk/users/1713-jstewart
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One Response to Welcome to the digital natives

  1. Robert says:

    “All but one felt the younger generation would never read longer, detailed journalism”

    A celebration of shallowness, and perhaps a terrifying harbinger of the possible demise of democracy. How can democracy have merit if people are unwilling to engage with any topic beyond the snippet of a 140 character message? Can anyone make an informed decision about any topic?

    Perhaps the younger generation will never vote? Worse, what sort of people will be elected if they do vote? Is the future the time of reactionaries and tweet-quotable populists?

    140 characters (and maybe a photo) is just about enough to cause an emotion, but not enough to convey any understanding. One worries about a future where the most complex topics people engage with are memes that fit in a JPG that can be read on a smartphone without zooming too much…

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