Project Information Literacy Releases “How Students Engage with News” Research Report

How Students Engage with News cover

How Students Engage with News coverProject Information Literacy today released a new research report, “How Students Engage with News: Five Takeaways for Educators, Journalists, and Librarians.” Commissioned by ACRL and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the report presents findings about how a sample of U.S. college students gather information and engage with news in the digital age. Six recommendations are included for educators, journalists, and librarians working to make students effective news consumers.

The study’s findings include:

  • Students detailed how staying current often meant navigating a complex minefield of misinformation, commercial interests, affective pleas for their clicks, “fast news” from social media, and political manipulation; more than a third (36%) said “fake news” had made them distrust the credibility of any news and only 14% felt confident they could tell “fake” from “real” news.
  • More than two-thirds of the respondents (68%) said the sheer amount of news was overwhelming; half agreed it was difficult to discern the most important news stories on a given day (51%).
  • Students were selective in the news topics they followed, though most had gotten news about the weather, traffic, and national politics during the past week. As one female student following Planned Parenthood stories said, “I’m looking for news that really affects me, that’s what prompts me to click a link.”
  • Eight in 10 students agreed news is “necessary in a democracy” but most said, the news had fallen short of their idealistic standards of accuracy, independence, and fairness.
  • A majority of respondents (58%) had shared or retweeted news on social media in the preceding week; many shared political memes (33%) or stories about national politics
    (29%).
  • Traditional standards for evaluating news were increasingly problematic for students to apply at a time when the 24-hour news cycle treats all stories like breaking news.

The findings suggest young adults believe news is valuable to their lives and to society on the whole, and many see social media as an important channel for giving them a voice in the world. Yet, the new digital environment and current political reality has made successful navigation extremely difficult.

Learn more about the report in the free ACRL Presents webcast “Lies, damned lies, and news: How do today’s students stay informed and what can librarians learn from them?” on Thursday, November 8. Kirsten Hostetler and Margy MacMillan will discuss what the report findings mean for information literacy instruction.