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Millennials don’t trust traditional news sources


Millennials are known for their media consumption, but why the shift? The difference is in approach.

In the past ten years, there have been numerous polls showing that the younger generations of Americans are getting their news from rather surprising places. Instead of watching CNN, or even the local news, they’ve been depending on unconventional networks such as Comedy Central or even YouTube for their daily updates on the world.

People like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and YouTube channels like Vox are dominating the newsfeed of millennials. And who can blame them? The incredibly slanted nature of the traditional news outlets are driving younger consumers away. I’m one of them.


It’s all in their approach to news. The humor brought by many of the newer forms of new media seem imperative to the upcoming generation. There’s something about the constant threat of disaster—a prevalent feeling in U.S. culture, today—that makes humor necessary. Local news is full of disaster, with the more established news channels following suit. Young people are turning to humor more and more as a coping mechanism for the insanity that is daily life in America.

In addition, these non-traditional news outlets manage to skewer each side of a problem. No one is forgiven for simply being a member of a beloved political party. No one is excused because they spout familiar rhetoric. Instead, politicians are held accountable for their actions.

It’s not a new concept, but it doesn’t feel familiar to many. Millennials are notoriously less trusting than previous generations according to the Pew Research Center. Pew states in its 2014 research report that Millennials are “relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people”. The report goes on to say that about half of the generation considers themselves Independents.

So it’s only natural that Millennials are a) untrustworthy of traditional media and b) looking for a different source that straddles the line between the two parties. In an age where accountability seems nonexistent (social justice issues abound, political leaders spewing hateful rhetoric, etc.) Millennials are looking for people that will that will tell them the truth, no matter who it lays the blame on.

Compared to the 40% of those in the Boomer generation who said that, “generally speaking, most people can be trusted” in Pew’s research, just 19% of Millennials answered in the affirmative.

An article by Jimmy Rohampton in Forbes also cites that way Millennials consume news as influential to their outlooks. Media, Rohampton says, has been integrated into a Millennial’s daily life.

“Older generations tend to set aside time to consume news…that’s not true for millennials. Instead of setting time aside, they have made it part of their daily lives…” –Jimmy Rohampton

Similarly, Rohampton says that Millennials are also more likely to expose themselves to views other than their own. He cites that “out of the 83% of millennials that are exposed to diverse opinions on social media, 73% click to learn more”.


Rohampton also makes an important connection between Millennials and news: they like to get it from friends. The lack of trust in the generation means they like being recommended something by someone they do trust. The newer sources of media lend themselves to these attention-getting videos much better. A segment of Trevor Noah’s shock at the Philando Castile verdict is simply going to get more attention than a local news channel one-minute breakdown of just the facts.

Not to say that Noah’s speech is lacking facts—it’s not. But it has a human element that most news broadcasters lack. These new sources of information feel what they’re saying, and that appeals to young people. They don’t simply speak from a teleprompter and move on to the next bit of news. There’s this humanist aspect to non-traditional news sources that makes young people watch, share, and actually take in what they’re watching.

Then there’s the aspect of “taking on the man”. People like John Oliver who challenged coal CEO Robert Murray on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, get not only Millennial’s attention, but avid support. Oliver pointed to numerous instances wherein Murray failed to protect the miner’s he claims to prioritize. These media moguls are able to directly challenge perpetrators of injustice. It’s the like the 70’s. They speak out against the wrong that they see. Although CNN and Fox News do something similar, it’s simply not the same.

Robert Murray is now suing Oliver for defamation, but I suspect that won’t make Oliver back down.

Murray’s suit even suggests that Oliver’s segment will “reduce [his] already limited life expectancy” according to The Daily Beast. Yes, Oliver’s story will, in fact, help kill Murray. That is in the legal complaint against Oliver.

Despite this, and perhaps most importantly, Pew also points out that Millennials are the “most upbeat about the nation’s future”—and that’s around the world. We’re the generation that seems to believe that small actions can make a huge difference. This optimism effects expectations of government, and the people working within it.

Transparency is now expected, empathy is embraced, and progress is desired. So while the trust of a Millennial is difficult to win, it is also given with enthusiasm. An immense amount of problems exist, but there is most definitely a way through. The news is often bleak, but a comical spin and a message of ultimate hope through actions make a difference to Millennials.

Jacqueline Shost