Find new ways to interact with free press
Students should look to independent news organizations. | commons.wikimedia.org
College students do not read the news: they consume it. Members of our generation are exposed to an unprecedented level of an almost intoxicating and absolutely overwhelming amalgamation of visual media and text than previous generations have experienced before. We students live in an age where daily news about any information can be easily accessed on our smartphones. Sometimes, it can seem like one is constantly drowning in an ocean of information. Students should develop their own strategies on how to interact with the media and should be careful with what they consume on the internet.
Democratizing and destructive
The power of sharing of social media has both a democratizing and destructive effect. Students should be skeptical about the news they encounter on social media and should avoid sharing articles whose contents may seem foreign and fresh to the reader. Many students use social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to quickly learn and share news with followers and friends. When we actively share news on our social media accounts, we not only become readers but also unofficial distributors of the news. The internet operates on trends and popularity. A study done by researchers from Columbia University and the French National Institute found that 59 percent of news articles are shared on social media without ever being read. Students should not only read articles for their own sake, but should also be cautious about not proliferating an untruthful article in the age of Buzzfeed and clickbait.
However, this generation’s relationship with the media establishment — especially corporate media — seems hopeful. Yes, it is good to read and subscribe to well-established and credible newspapers such as The New York Times or The Washington Post. Papers such as the Times are considered the gray lady of the American free press, but are by no means pioneers in this age of endless information. Large newspapers such as the Times generally embrace the establishment-friendly talking points of beltway lobbyists and politicians. It seems the Times has, to some extent, failed to maintain the same level of power of investigative journalism in current times compared to other online platforms.
New publications such as The Intercept accomplish what the Times fails to do: they investigate and deeply criticize government intelligence agencies and powerful corporations.
The Intercept — an online-only investigative journalism platform — uses whistleblower information and the skills of a handful of the most experienced journalists to create articles exploring topics most papers will not touch, mostly due to legal and political implications. The Intercept has published numerous unique reports on the complex and shadowy global surveillance architecture constructed by the National Security Agency and the drone programs in Yemen.
Other publications, such as the Field of Vision, utilize visual media — mostly short documentaries — to effectively tell powerful stories on topics ranging from suicide trends in Japan to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Independent and listener-funded media can also be helpful for someone trying to find an organization free from corporate or government influence. Radio and online programs such as Democracy Now provide daily shows and briefs about the latest current affairs and news.
As students, we live in a time when we have access to powerful tools and even more powerful information. We should be more careful about the content we share, albeit considering the fact this generation is experiencing a new era of possibilities for the field of journalism.