Media lessons from a millennial

By Dave Kempa

Al Jazeera America battles for footing on satellite and cable TV. Journalist Glenn Greenwald leaves The Guardian to create a new company with eBay Inc.’s founder. Meanwhile, newspaper orgs like The McClatchy Company and Gannett Company drop reporters like loose change at the laundromat, leaving many of us wondering when and how our roiling media landscape will settle.

We already have a few indicators. We know the average American’s news diet has pivoted toward new technology, and that the largest share of this shift is driven by my age group—the millennials. And as much as older generations may think us entitled and lazy, it’s going to pay to understand our habits. To begin the conversation, I’d like to offer up a few observations:

TV is a joke. Network news is generally a farce, as most of us not enrolled in AARP know. According to Nielsen ratings, the median ages of prime-time cable-news viewers are 59.8 years for CNN, 60.2 for MSNBC and 65-plus over at Fox News. (Nielsen stops calculating past 65.) That isn’t to say millennials don’t know what’s going on with cable news. If we don’t catch clips shared through social media, we watch pundits get ridiculed on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report.

The journalist, not the organization, is the brand. Media oracles like Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis continue to drive this point home. Young adults spend less time on news organizations’ home pages than they do following journalists they trust on social media. Increasingly, we’re going to see dogged reporters who have become authorities on their beats rise to the top of the media ladder, regardless of their affiliate organization. Which brings me to my final point:

You are the media. Yes, you. If you use Facebook, Twitter or any form of social media to share or comment on current events, then you are a part of the media landscape.

This, mind you, is a double-edged sword. When you complain about “the media” not covering something, chances are you’re wrong. Someone, somewhere is probably reporting on the topic quite well, and the onus is on you to find those stories and share them with your network.

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