Young people who are tired of the news: why they no longer want to know anything about traditional media

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The Leibniz Institute for Media Research has taken a closer look at an important parallel world. It’s about credibility and direction. How worried should the establishment media be?

The intact house became a ruin, through whose cracks the wind of communication blows.

Wilhelm Flusser, bored like an emmental

The Leibniz Institute for Media Research has published a study that attempts to scientifically take a close look at young people who “cannot find their interests and concerns reflected in traditional media.” They are described in the study as “poorly information oriented.”


They have little interest in current world events, hardly use information from the established media and therefore hardly receive journalistic offers.

They represent about a third of young people aged 14 to 24 (young people aged 14 to 17: 45 percent, young adults aged 18 to 24: 22 percent).

Instead, social media offers play an important role for this group of young people. They stay informed almost exclusively through casual information contacts on TikTok and YouTube, prefer entertaining content and pursue individual interests that they also talk about with their friends.

Hans Bredow Institute, Leibniz Institute for Media Research

You can count to ten on each of the main debate topics (the coronavirus crisis, the Ukraine war, the Gaza war) until this accusation comes: “The media” report unilaterally. This is definitely something to discuss. But can the accusation be sustained if actual media consumption is taken into account?

This is uncertain because Twitter, Telegram, YouTube or TikTok come into play, to name just some of the platforms that are better adapted to the consumption of new media than the subscription newspaper on the stairs or entire articles in the online editions of the media. . Instead, quick information management, powerful, fun and no-nonsense images.

This need not be doubtful. On October 7, he was faster and better informed through Twitter than through the usual news channels, a Ha’aretz journalist wrote. “Tell me something, I don’t know,” was his comment about the delayed reaction of the traditional media.

Accusation of unilaterality: “I can say it”

There is such an opulence of material in the image and text worlds of Twitter, TikTok, Telegram, Instagram, YouTube that there can be no doubt of one-sidedness in the bigger picture. In addition to the old world of mass media, subscription print newspapers, television channels and online media, there are parallel worlds of the public. And they are relevant. Companies have been having this in their budgets for a long time.

There you can say a lot, far beyond the limits set by classical media. Until the guardians of misinformation notice. And that can take time.

Parents say their young children no longer watch TV, read newspapers or use online services Newspaperof Mirrorhe sizehe Worldhe Face or the taz perceive.

What consequences does that have?

This is often followed by a resigned shrug and old-world explanations (“Young people are losing basic information and the ability to differentiate”). The traditional media has been following this development with concern for several years. Currently there is no explanation for this that can serve as a formula to incorporate young people into the traditional public sphere.

The Leipzig study does not have such an operational explanatory formula either. But we take a closer look.

What is special about the study is that it does not present quantitative empirical work, but qualitative research: results of debates that took place in four large cities in Germany in ten groups with adolescents and young people between 14 and 22 years old. A total of 46 study participants were interviewed.

And, as already indicated, the scientists wanted to know more about the information behavior of certain young people who could be described as “tired of the news”: “young people who are barely interested in current information and who cannot access the journalistic offerings: those that are less information-oriented.”

warning notice

Why the study is accompanied by a warning:

The results obtained in this study are not suitable for generalization and general application to all adolescents and young adults in Germany. Rather, the results provide valuable information about a subgroup of young people who have little interest in current world events and hardly receive information offers from established providers.

Hans Bredow Institute

Thus, the mystery of the much-observed departure of adolescents and young adults is only partially clarified. But what have we discovered about those teenagers and young adults who mostly have a low level of formal education and who no longer play a role in the news provided by established media?

It’s no longer a safe home

That information is mainly found on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube or through Google search. That social media celebrities, such as Mr. Lawyer or Rezo, play an “important role as a source of information.”

The reason is that they arouse the interest of young people and enjoy trust “because, in the opinion of young people, they deal with the right topics in a neutral way and with the appropriate and entertaining presentation.”

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Regarding the general impression that social networks make on young people, there are strong doubts about the neutrality and the choice of this important source of information.

Respondents problematized a certain “addictive potential” in the use of social networks. The fact that predominantly negative and “toxic” content is disseminated and that “fake accounts” and “fake content” are increasing generates insecurities in the group surveyed and, consequently, a lack of trust in the content of social networks in general. – a differentiation based on the type of account o The sender is not affected.

Hans Bredow Institute

So there is no safe home in this world either:

Some of the participants have strategies to deal with uncertainty regarding dubious senders and content (usually a Google search). However, in general this is an indication that there are significant orientation problems in the group examined.

Hans Bredow Institute

Would this be an advantage for the established media, which promises guidance?

Not precisely. Among youth and young adults in the focus groups, a negative image of journalists and “traditional media” was expressed. Ironically, this is very similar to the accusations that traditional media make against social networks:

The criticism of news in traditional media is that they exaggerate too much and do not provide sufficient and nuanced explanations. There is too much information about certain topics, while other more important topics are not mentioned or are kept silent.

Hans Bredow Institute

In traditional media, respondents find a “dubious overall picture, which is due less to false facts than to the omission of individual facts, opinions and events. This leads to a loss of trust and a move away from classic media offerings.” “

Young people do not want to be fooled by the “single dominant perspective.” Especially if they have no “points of contact” with their living environment.
(Thomas Pany)

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