They’ll tell you the truth for a ridiculous sticker.
On Saturday, I spoke at a high school media conference. More than 500 newspaper, yearbook, and TV students met in South Florida to learn about writing, editing, technology, and ethics.
About 100 attended my sessions, so I handed each a survey. Looked like this…
Realizing teenagers possess the attention span of an Instagram video, I kept it to only two questions:
1. “What pisses you off about the news media today?”
2. “How will you fix it once you inherit the world?”
Every student who returned the survey received a medical sticker that read, “for rectal use ONLY.” Once word spread around the conference, I got 57 sheets of paper back.
(Because of my own stunted maturity, I have a knack for knowing what motivates teenagers. This motivate them.)
While not at all scientific, the results were insightful and amusing. At least to me.
Genuine hatred of fake news
I’m not sure if high-schoolers understand what fake news is – because many adults don’t, either – but nearly all said it pisses them off most about the news media today…
• “The huge amount of fake news in today’s media and how susceptible people are to it.” – Maia, 16
• “I don’t like how fake news is polluting society’s view of journalism.” – Bella, 17
• “How everyone believes fake news.” – Jennifer, 15
• “The widespread drama and FAKE NEWS.” – Madison, 16
• “They’re so fake!” – Felix, 15
• “Fake news. Period. Fake news.” – Brian, 13
• “IT IS FAKE.” – Nikki, 12
So what will they do about it when they rule the planet? For 12-year-old Rebekah and 13-year-old Zoe – who both wrote “TV journalist” as their career goal – the solution is simple…
• “I will only get the facts,” Zoe says.
• “I will give the truth and only the truth,” Rebekah says.
I wish them much luck on television. They’ll need it.
Their peers demand broader, bolder, and more autocratic action…
• Sean, 18, wants to be a meteorologist. His solution to fake news? “Take articles down that are clearly biased.”
• Malik, 12, wants to be a journalist, and if he sees fake news, “I will stop that person/people from publishing it and take it down.”
• Ethan, 14, would “ban and execute all fake news and fake news spreaders.” I don’t think he’s exaggerating, because I saw this kid in one of my sessions, and he was intense.
Sensational solutions to sensationalism
Besides fake news, almost all the other complaints can be summed up by 17-year-old Delaney, who wants to be a news anchor…
Everything is so goddam sensationalist. Nobody seems to care about finding facts, but instead chase after headlines that get them views.
“They take away from the real issue by putting nonsense over it,” says Lexy, 17. “There’s always some sort of racial, sexist, or just judgmental twist to it.”
Here are my three favorite solutions to that sensationalism…
1. Lauren, 17, would do it “by creating world peace so there are no negative news stories to write.” Then she drew a globe with everyone holding hands. See above.
2. While Andrew, 17, also laments “how one-sided the national news outlets are,” he was the only student to propose no solution for the right reason: “I’m a firm believer of freedom of the press, so, unfortunately, I’ll let them continue on.” Rock on, Andrew.
3. Zachary, 12, will “pass a law that you can’t say things you don’t know shit about.” While unconstitutional, it’s not unappealing.
Zachary describes today’s journalists as “idiots that think they know what they’re talking about, like a bunch of 8-year-olds talking about memes.” I don’t have children, but if I could kidnap one to call my own, it might be Zachary. He already possesses the cynicism of a 50-year-old, yet he’s still enduring puberty.
My three favorite replies
Pavla may only be 15, but she understands this stupid trend…
People just send headlines to each other as they spread news — no one ever reads the article. The most polarizing articles and opinions spread the fastest. In the future, maybe if we set higher standards for journalism, we’ll get harder news instead of sensationalism.
Haleigh, 16, laments a “very white-washed” media…
There is not enough representation of different ethnicities and nationalities in the media. There are so many different cultures and types of people in America and most of them are never acknowledged. I will bring more light to this love.
Since I was polling high-schoolers, I expected some juvenile stabs at humor. Weirdly, I got only one. It was from Lewis, who at 17 already knows what he wants to be when he grows up: “Monarch.”
What pisses him off about the news media?
The fact that almost all media sources are run by liberals and the only major conservative news source is Fox news, which is about as reliable as twitter going through a meltdown.
When Lewis becomes monarch, here’s his plan…
First of all, I’ll get rid of democracy, never worked anyway, and replace it with a monarchy. The new education system will be used to decide who does what with their career and then we can explore space.
Of course, there’s a chance Lewis isn’t joking. If you’ve read President Trump’s plans to reform education and explore space, you can easily see Lewis becoming a White House staffer during Trump’s second term.