News is “garbage, lies” and worse? Say what?

by PR Coach

Millennials say news is “garbage, lies…”

The topline of the University of Texas at Austin research study says “Millennials describe news as garbage, lies, one-sided, propaganda, repetitive and boring.”

This stunning report collided today with another post to create a not-so-pretty picture of journalism. Is it any wonder that trust in media continues to drop precipitously?

That quote was in a post by Jim Romenesko. He highlighted Professor Paula Poindexter’s UT news release, highlighting her research and five findings on millennials’ consumption of news.

One of her findings was the “garbage and lies” quote highlighted above.

The most alarming was the fifth finding: “The majority of millennials do not feel being informed is important.”

I wonder what they really think about news?

The second post by the Poynter Institute’s Craig Silverman looks at “Journalism’s Summer of Sin marked by plagiarism, fabrication, obfuscation.”

Silverman provides a litany of these “sins.” He offers three potential solutions to prevent these transgressions in the future. But I’m afraid plagiarism has been around since cavemen started stealing stories from each other.

Journalism is suffering. Integrity seems to be missing in action. And the news media don’t seem to take these issues seriously.

The Pew Research Center tracks the public’s opinion of performance in media. Its 1985 to 2011 research shows that negative opinions of media now are at their highest level on nine of 12 core measures of performance.

What’s this got to do with PR?

So why should public relations pros care about journalism self-destructing? I offer four reasons:

  1. We have an important relationship with media. They are still influential. Yes, it’s easier for us to use social media to speak directly to our audiences. But as PR professionals, we still often need the help of media to do our job successfully.
  2. Traditional media can still tip the balance of public opinion, reach consumers with impact or help society in a crisis. In other words, they have an important role in the fabric of society.
  3. If the public, and increasingly the younger generations, no longer trust or depend on the media for news, insight and balance, we lose an important source of objectivity.
  4. Freedom of speech is the foundation of every democratic society. If we give that up, we lose more than we may realize.

When I tweeted my discouragement about the millennials’ jaundiced view of media, several older generation members commented they felt the same. One said with “so much bullshit and propaganda floating around” he was glad young people “are capable of critical thinking.”

The trouble is, to be a critical thinker you need a variety of sources. And it helps if you still read, write and engage.

To me, the most shocking finding was the belief that not “being informed is important.” Say what? Anyone with that attitude would not get an interview let alone a job in my PR agency or previous organizations where I managed people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve hired many talented young people who were more self-aware than I was at their age. And social media, citizen journalism, new technology and great new tools for conversation? I’m there. With the millennials.

The irony is that with all the new communication tools out there, plagiarism is still commonplace. News media must do better at combatting plagiarism. Media can’t leave the impression that it’s okay or that we don’t take it seriously.

I just hope the millennials didn’t really mean it when they said they didn’t think being informed is important. They’re just kidding, right? Most do have a finely developed sense of irony. Because if that’s what they really believe, all the social media in the world won’t save us.

What do you think? Optimistic or are millennials really that disengaged? Comments and opinions welcome below. Millennials? Don’t be shy. Let’s hear from you.

If you’d like to stay informed, you can get this blog in your inbox every week. And our PR Library is open 24×7 and it’s a really cool place to hang out and flex your ideas and opinions.

Author: Jeff Domansky 

Visuals: eschipul via Flickr, Pew Center

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