The modern high school student has a complicated relationship with the news. A survey conducted among Red Mountain English classes of all grades found that 69.4 percent of students had not watched, read or heard an in-depth news story in the last week. However 51.4 percent of those same students reported consuming news several times a week or more, 49.5 percent had subscribed to news apps or notifications and 65.8 percent had watched the news on TV in the last week.
“Aware means not just being a sheep.”
– Ms. Bonewell
The survey presents a picture of students inundated with surface level information, yet rarely dropping below that surface to evaluate what they consume.
There was no statistically significant change between grade levels when it came to news engagement—the change between the freshman and senior classes’ responses on whether they had read an in-depth news story was 3.6 percent. The only Advanced Placement class surveyed had higher margins of news engagement, 44.4 percent, but further study would be necessary to determine if this represents a trend or a statistical anomaly.
Current Events teacher Ms. Bonewell has 14 years of experience teaching social studies to high schoolers. She always tells her class to get a news app on the first day of class.
“Aware [means] not just being a sheep,” Ms. Bonewell said. “You read different sources and get ideas from different people.”
Her students present a picture different from the school average.
“You want to look at multiple sources and see if the information matches up,” junior Teryn Hansen said. “If it doesn’t, then you know it’s false.”
Far from the surface level news consumption 7 out of 10 of their fellow students reported, Ms. Bonewell’s students show critical news consumption habits.
“I’m not like ‘Oh just Fox’ or ‘Oh just CNN’, I go around and listen to everyone’s story,” junior Marissa Soest said. “Everyone sees [the story] in a different way.”
In the modern media landscape—where spin is king and journalistic objectivity receives only the sparsest of lip-service when not being decried as unnecessary, outdated or impossible—students who want to find the truth need to look deeper than the headlines.
“You start learning what CNN says, what MSNBC says, what Fox News says—they tell you what they want you to hear,” Ms. Bonewell said.
The Red Mountain student body has interests ranging from social change (23.4 percent) to politics (28.8 percent) to fashion (5.4 percent). 92.8 percent carry devices capable of accessing the news in their pockets. They’re more connected, and less engaged, than ever before.