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#UseTheNews Study: Young People Often Have No Connection to the Reality of Their Own Lives in Journalistic News

#UseTheNews Study: Young People Often Have No Connection to the Reality of Their Own Lives in Journalistic News

Hamburg, 28.04.2021. A nationwide study by the #UseTheNews project reveals a deep information gap in the upcoming generation: about half of the young people do not consider it important to be informed about news and current events. At the same time, they are significantly less informed than their peers who also regularly use journalistic news sources. However, journalistic offers are only one of many sources of the information they use. These are the results of the #UseTheNews study "News Usage and News Literacy in the Digital Age", initiated by the dpa and the Hamburg Ministry for Culture and Media. The study was conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research. The results were presented and discussed today at the Mediendialog Hamburg [Media Dialogue Hamburg].

For the first time, a study breaks down in such a precise and differentiated way in which young people deal with news. #UseTheNews thus provides new, well-founded insights for media companies and media education. Even if many frequently use social media, this does not automatically mean that they are not interested in news. Many also consume the news on TV or radio, read a daily newspaper or inform themselves about the online offers of classic news providers. Thus, within the same age and education group, different types emerge with specific characteristics of interest, use, attributed relevance to opinion-forming and being informed. These four identified types are:
  1. Journalistically information-oriented: high news interest, extensive use and great relevance of journalistic sources with low relevance of non-journalistic offerings; well informed;
  2. Little information-oriented: low news interest, no use and relevance of journalistic sources with likewise low use and relevance of non-journalistic offerings; not well informed;
  3. Extensively information-oriented: high news interest, extensive use and great relevance of journalistic and non-journalistic offerings; well informed;
  4. Non-journalistically information-oriented: medium news interest, no use and relevance of journalistic sources with high relevance of non-journalistic offerings; not well informed.

Often Reference to Their Own Life is Missing in Journalistic News

For example, in the age group of 14 to 17 year-olds, more than two-thirds of the non-journalistically information-oriented say so (67 percent). In the age group 18 to 24, the figure is slightly lower (59 per cent). However, even among the journalistically information-oriented - i.e. the youths and young adults who have the strongest connection to classical media - the value is comparatively high in both age groups at just under 40 per cent in each case.
With 46 percent, just under half of the interviewed youths aged between 14 and 17 turn their attention to journalistic offers several times a week, but 58 percent also look at non-journalistic actors. About half of the adolescents and young adults do not consider it important to inform themselves about news and current events.

Friends, Families and Acquaintances Most Important for Opinion Formation

Journalistic news are no longer of decisive importance for young people in forming their opinions. Friends, family and acquaintances are more relevant. For 18- to 24-year-olds in the group of the journalistically information-oriented is the personal environment on a par with journalistic news media (59 percent and 61 percent respectively). The high relevance of influencers for opinion-forming is striking in the non-journalistically information-oriented group, but also among the comprehensive information-oriented. Thus, 41 percent of the 14 to 17-year-olds and 35 percent of the 18 to 24-year-olds consider influencers extremely or very important for forming their own opinions.

Likes and Comments

The group of the journalistically information-oriented aged 18 to 24 is remarkably reserved when it comes to liking news. While only 28 per cent of them regularly click the like button, 73 per cent of those who are not journalistically information-oriented do so. In both age groups, the most active users of the comment function in social networks are those who are comprehensively information-oriented. Comments on journalistic news sites are posted only very sporadically by all groups.

Recommendations for Actions for Media and Educational Institutions

"Journalistic providers should develop ways to highlight the everyday relevance of their services for young people and at the same time show that they are more capable of providing relevant information than other information providers due to their competencies and working methods," say the authors of the study Uwe Hasebrink, Sascha Hölig and Leonie Wunderlich from the Leibniz Institute for Media Research in Hamburg. "Only solid craftsmanship as well as reliable content from different perspectives can succeed in setting themselves apart from non-journalistic and opinionated players and create a convincing added value for which people are willing to pay money in case of doubt."
Furthermore, the authors state that knowledge about the functions and working methods of journalism is limited among adolescents and young people. Therefore, it seems advisable to pay more attention to media education in schools. The goal should be a better understanding of the basic functions of journalism in a democracy and the structures of the media system, including the role of public broadcasting, but also knowledge of the mechanisms of attention and the specific working methods of professional journalism.

Study Design: Face-to-Face Survey of about 1500 People in the Autumn of 2020

The design of the study was developed along several guiding questions: Which difference does it make a difference where and how adolescents and young adults inform themselves?  And what general patterns of orientation towards news can be observed in the digital media environment? To answer these questions, the interplay between news interest, news use, being informed and opinion formation was investigated. The focus was on the importance of the different journalistic and non-journalistic news offerings in this interplay. Eight group discussions with a total of 35 participants and 500 face-to-face interviews with people from the age groups 14-17 years, 18-24 years and 40-50 years (n = 1,508) were conducted. The samples form a structurally identical picture of the German-speaking population in private households in the respective age groups with regard to the variables age, gender, region and education (50 per cent each formally high and formally low). The fieldwork was carried out by the Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung (GIM) [Society for Innovative Market Research] between 12 October and 6 December 2020.

Statements from the #UseTheNews Board of Trustees

Julia Becker, Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board, Funke Media Group
"Especially because young people use social media so intensively, there is a need for solidly researched, reliable journalism that focuses on facts and many voices, not on an agenda set by algorithms or influencers. More than ever, publishers are doing this democracy-preserving work. However, with all our reliability and credibility, we also need to be in tune with young people's interests - for example, through digital formats such as podcasts, videos or online contributions directly from the lives of this generation. I am therefore pleased that #UseTheNews, as a competence centre for young target groups, is conceiving such new formats for the media industry together with FUNKE. However, the project does not release us, the publishers, from the obligation to set up our editorial teams with such diverse personnel that young people with all their expectations and concerns can find themselves in our products.
Dr Carsten Brosda, Senator for Culture and Media of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg:
"The study is a guide for journalism and politics. Young people articulate a clear need for information and facts. Professional editorial offices must seek to make clear the value of good journalistic work, especially for the lives of young people. At the same time, teaching news literacy and the role of journalism for the democratic public has to be more successful. Public educational institutions have an important responsibility here. #UseTheNews can make important contributions to both aspects."

Dr. Peter Frey, Editor-in-Chief, ZDF
"The #UseTheNews study makes it clear once again how important it is that we reach out to the young target group. We want to reach teenagers and young adults where they are anyway: in the digital networks. There we have to prepare our journalistic content in a way that is suitable for the platform. We are already succeeding in some places, but not yet across the board. It is particularly important that we provide an even better translation service and explain what concrete effects news from politics and business have on the everyday lives of young people."
Prof. Dr. Kai Gniffke, Director of Südwestrundfunk
"Our task as a public service media provider is to get young people excited about news content. It is about presenting relevant topics in an exciting way for this target group. To do this, we link well-founded research and reliable information with the reality of young people's lives. We will also reach out to young users in the information sector with our new news offer - in order to involve the whole society in the democratic process. #UseTheNews provides us with important insights and exciting findings for this."
Peter Kropsch, Chief Executive Officer, dpa
"The findings of the study show vividly that the media industry needs to reach out more to young people. Providers of journalistic news formats face the challenge of constantly fighting for their relevance anew. In the #UseTheNews project, we are working together in a strong team to find the right answers for our future offerings. Because only journalism that has a real and tangible value for the lives of the young generation can fulfil its social task in the long term."


Christiane Matzen
Tel. 040 45 02 17 41

About #UseTheNews

The nationwide project #UseTheNews gets to the bottom of young people's news use and news literacy and develops new information and educational offers. In the News Literacy Lab, we will develop new news services based on the findings of the study. The News Literacy Lab is accompanied by journalism experts from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW). In addition, educational offers, teaching materials and further training for teachers are being developed under the title Open News Education (ONE) in order to strengthen the teaching of news literacy in schools. #UseTheNews was initiated by the German Press Agency dpa and the Hamburg Ministry for Culture and Media. The project is supported by a board of trustees consisting of well-known personalities from the media and politics.
You can find more information at https://leibniz-hbi.de/en/projects/use-the-news-news-usage-and-news-literacy-in-the-digital-age and www.dpa.com/de/usethenews


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