Why We Don’t Read the News — And Why We Should


Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Jacob Hamburger, World News Editor

In today’s day and age, thanks to the rapidly improving Internet and use of cell phones, news has become more frantic than ever. Negotiations, meetings, speeches, and much more happen, and are reported on, at breathtaking speeds. From the current diplomatic standoff in Syria, to the trade war in China, to the Zuckerberg hearings, the world is moving fast.

But, it doesn’t seem Cresskill students are too enthused about such pressing world events. When asked if they read the news, responses were usually straightforward:

I sometimes do. I don’t really read news…I don’t have time.”

“I don’t, no. I don’t feel the urge to keep up with the world”

Why, then, if news moves quickly, and most students have access to news outlets, do they not take advantage of it?

Surprisingly, these Cresskill students are far from outliers; rather, they are part of an increasingly larger trend. Contrary to common logic, many students do not read more news despite its access and volume increasing in recent years. Top scholars, such as Harvard Professor Thomas Patterson, have attributed this lack of consumption as America becoming “‘more of a viewing nation than a reading nation.’” Thus, in having more places to read from, many are no longer reading in depth, therefore missing out on many key details of world news.

Viewing instead of reading in high school carries on into college, and has significant consequences; a Pew Research study recently reported that “people age 18-34 are consistently less knowledgeable about current events than their elders.” Such a statistic raises some serious red flags, considering the importance of the news in the professional world. For example, being knowledgeable on the recent tariff war between China and America is crucial for anyone deriving their income from the field of economics. But what makes world news so critical is how it goes beyond the immediate field of interest. Sure, economists will be impacted by this trade war, but so will people who buy and sell tariffed goods, as well as their families and people who rely upon them.

While it may seem young America, and Cresskill’s own, are news-illiterate, there are certainly exceptions. Many high school students rely upon television programs as well as print sources:

“I read an article every couple of days and I always watch the news every night”

“I watch CNN and CBS in the morning”

As the world moves faster, and history is written quicker, it can feel more difficult to keep up. But in parallel to an increase in volume, we have witnessed a nearly unprecedented increase in access, with millions of stories being at our fingertips. Whether high schoolers take advantage of such access in the future is anyone’s guess, but initial performance certainly isn’t encouraging.