The Generation Gap in Media Trust and Usage

A December survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press looked broadly at how media were being consumed this campaign. In the most striking finding, half of respondents over the age of 50 and 39 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds reported watching local television news regularly for campaign news, while only 25 percent of people under 30 said they did.
Young quick to share political news online
Social networks seen fueling distribution of campaign messages, coverage

It is this pnenomena that has provided the Obama campaign with its energy and its overwhelming lead in fundraising. And, IMHO, it is the strongest rebuttal against critisms and questions regarding Obama’s lack of experience, supposed inability to find real solutions to problems, and that he supposedly all talk and no walk. Both Clinton and McCain can only dream of a grass-roots level of support like Obama’s. To me, their criticisms have the distinct taste of sour grapes.

The results of this survey also should serve as a wake up call to the established media. There is a generation gap in how the established media is veiwed by the next generation. Yes, the older sector of the population still trusts the established media, but the younger groups have less and less faith in the established media. And that comes as no surprsie to me.

I tend to side with the younger media consumers on this issue. Media coverage is supposed to be reasonably objective and is supposed to take a critical look at issues and events. Instead, the media has increasingly become the mouthpiece for one special interest or another. I think the reason for that is that media outlets have put profits before principles. Their perspective on issues and events is tainted by the influence of advertising dollars.

Also, and here I am talking about the major newspapers more than any other form of media, these media outlets are no longer independent. They are odten owned by large corporations who have other business holdings that, from the perspective of objectivity and critical thinking about issues and events, are a conflict of interest. And these parent corporations are too often heavily involved with a particular political party, providing financial support and influencing to some degree the perspective of the media outlets they own. After all, it usually is not wise to bite the hand that feeds you or signs your paycheck.

A truly independent press can only be found, it seems, on the Internet among the bloggers and smaller online news media. But we need to be wary even of Internet media outlets. Too often, the largest “independent” Internet media sources fall into the same traps. They too are not above putting profits before principles.

The Internet, and this is especially true of blogs and the social networks, has the greatest level of freedom of speech and freedom of the press this world has ever seen. You can pretty much say anything. But that is also its greatest weakness.

Too often the Internet is the source for a lot of misniformation. Even sites like Wikipedia, that allows its users to post and edit information that is supposed to be factual and substantiated, will intentionally or unintentionally provide incorrect information. Too many Internet users will pass on anything they find on the Internet that is interesting or sensational without researching the truth of it to their friends or their social networks, who accept it also as the gospel truth.

The Internet has been called the information superhighway. Information can be trasmitted to a huge number of people in the blink of an eye. And that is good, very good. That is what makes the Internet the greatest tool for freedom in human history.

But, with that freedom, as with all freedoms, comes responsibility. Each one of us needs to take personbal responsibility to check the validity of the information we pass on to our friends and social networks. Too often, we merely forward it on without ever doing even a modicum of research.

The best approach to take is be skeptical of everything you read, see, hear on the Internet. Even this site! I won’t be offended. Check sources. Validate the accuracy and truth of the information you pass on. Just because you may want to believe it is true, does not make it true.


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