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How kids get their news

High schoolers get news from a wide variety of sources, and are especially vulnerable to believing less credible sources, or gleaning information that is unreliable at best. With modern technology and social interactions, the lines between credible and not credible sources have blurred, and everything is up to interpretation.

I, like most of my peers, discover more news then I should from my friends and classmates, both online and in the real world. Rather than read a lengthy news story, it’s often easier to read a friend’s status or a tweet between classes, or gain information through word of mouth. In this day and age, it’s all about accessibility, and those who market to us the best or tell the most dramatic tales often gain the most attention. The problem is, most of these stories have been passed through a series of people, each of whom adding a personal bias, white lie, or hidden exaggeration as they pass it on to the next sucker in line. We don’t bother to seek out accurate and established sources, especially because the establishment of online news sites makes accurate, unbiased sources more difficult to find.

These online sources are everywhere. At first, we read The New York Times on our phones, but now we’re less discriminatory. It has become far too easy for high schoolers to trust bloggers, or friends’ online opinions, which envelope us in a flurry of opinions and prejudices. Who’s to tell whether the guy I’m following on Tumblr really has an inside source in the White House? Most of us are unable to know, and don’t consider researching the matter further.

This proliferation of sources available to us seems to make our lives easier, and spread awareness of current events. However, we do not often consider factchecking, and therefore become imprinted with more and more biases and exaggerations that we are unable to distinguish in our sources. In a democratic society, where we each will eventually have voting power, this has an incredibly negative effect. Our naïveté leaves us vulnerable to advertising and political statements, leaving us quite unprepared and undereducated as we enter the world of voters. Students who have not been able to take journalism classes do not know how to accurately judge the reliability of their sources, and cannot therefore become the accurately informed citizens we need to take on leadership roles in the next generation.

Our generation won’t be on training wheels forever. The way we’re going, we will not be prepared to distinguish impartial news sources from biased bloggers. As the majority of our sources grow increasingly corruptible and biased, our participation in the workforce and national politics will be negatively affected. We will continue to be barraged with misinformation, while remaining completely incapable of interpreting news and factchecking our various sources. We will be more easily swayed by inherent news biases, and will be unable to properly take the reigns as we come of age to do so, since we will not have the correct information to inform ourselves in our voting and actions.

As our sources evolve further, and established news sources like The New York Times lose popularity, our attention will be sold to the highest bidder. Newspapers are already on a downward spiral, and if more shady journalists can grab our attention online, we will slowly stop reading such sources, and they will die out. Many previously popular news sources, like the radio, have already faded nearly into oblivion. Our attention is moving towards focusing entirely on online sources, which change constantly and are less regulated.

Once the newspapers and other media we are still fortunate enough to have are gone, further problems are likely to ensue. Without newspapers and television networks as we know them, it’s hard to know who will give us accurate information on current events worldwide. Who will finance reporters, and accurate investigations? Perhaps companies or nonprofits will assume similar roles, but their participation can only lead to further biases in order to influence readers and listeners in their favor.

The news industry’s decline has a negative effect on anyone and everyone involved in politics and world affairs. The increase in unreliable information, and the biases that crop up in online sources everywhere can only act against the next generation. This must serve as a reminder that our generation must be better prepared and informed to interpret current events. Students must be better informed and more able to gain unbiased information, or the next generation will be unready to take the reins in a world where we are already vulnerable and unsure.

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Shivonne Logan is an 11th grader at Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, CA. Tags: