What We Found
This part is all about analysing the material we gathered and with the help of the earlier literature we have read we try to draw some conclusions about our research material. First of all, lets take a look back at where we started. What do we actually want to know from the youth? Through this project, we want to answer how youth reflect on their own interaction with news-related content and how this connects to news value. We have divided this question into three sub-questions.
- What is seen as news today by youth?
- What are youth motivators for engaging with content?
- How do youth negotiate trust in the current media landscape?
An essential part of understanding what the youth define as news is understanding what they consume. Our participants gathered 47 posts in total, where did they all come from?
We can see that most of the consumption of socially relevant content happens online. A lot of different actors can create content in the digital space, so this doesn’t show us much about what type of content is actually consumed.
27 out of the posts came from Instagram, which was overwhelmingly the biggest news source among our participants.
In a report by the Swedish Internet foundation, over half of all youth use social media as a source for news. They divide their surveyants in 12-15 and 16-25 year-olds, where the biggest difference between the groups is a significant decrease in Twitter and Facebook as news platforms, from 20-30% among the older group to just 4-5% among the younger ones. Instagram is not mentioned as a source, but is likely a large part of the news that is gotten from “other social media”, which about one in every three in both age groups specifies as a source.
Our participants use Instagram more then the surveyed youth in the study, which might mean their exposed to different types of content than other youngsters.
To get more information of the character of content we will have to look closer at the data and from which source each individual post originated.
In order to better understand the types of sources reported by the participants we have chosen to divide the data into three groups. The “newcomers”, traditional media and newsrooms. The sectioning is based on looking at our data specifically and we believe these three categories are helpful for gaining a better understanding of each source.
- TNKVRT – A Swedish personal (the creator is known but not visible on the account) activist account, with the goal to highlight injustice through personal stories and sharing news.
- Impact – A non-personal (the creator is unknown) activist Instagram account, with the goal of providing simple and socially relevant content.
- Eye on Palestine – A non-personal activist account sharing current news on the conflict in Palestine with the goal of furthering the cause of a palestinian nation.
- GAIA – Activist organisation fighting for animal rights
- NWSNWSNWS – Belgian public service specifically producing news for a younger audience.
- P3 News – Radio-based commercial Swedish broadcast station.
- TV4 – Swedish commercial television news.
- BBC – Public-service broadcasting channel.
- GP – Swedish Daily news.
- Aftonbladet – Swedish evening news.
- De Morgen – Belgian Daily news.
- De Standaard – Belgian Daily news.
Our two most sited sources are quite different to each other in their organisational structure. NWSNWSNWS is a state-owned public service organisation while the account TNKVRT is atleast towards the public run by a single person being in charge for all the content put out. The common denominator is that both news outlets have a significant following on Instagram.
The format plays a key part in the participants news consumption. Through following accounts such as NWSNWSNWS as well as TNKVRT on Instagram the youngsters sign up for updates about news content in their social media feed. The design process is an inevitably crucial process. TNKVRT looks like, and sometimes writes in a similar style to NWSNWSNWS. Is it however a guarantee for more trustworthy news content?
Now let’s look at what we talked about during the meetings! In our second meeting we discussed the sources that the youngsters had provided, putting a spotlight on how news were carried out through social media accounts.
“Most news usually it´ll be through Insta, through [the Belgian public service] pages posts, but it’s mostly really easy to read quickly and to get a good overview actually.”
“I mostly see information on social media first, but it does happen when it’s something that people don’t post about that I’ll see the story in a newspaper first.”
“I get quite a lot from memes, when I’m on Tiktok, Instagram or Twitter something will come up and I will see it. Maybe I’ll look it up there, or go over to the local newspaper and see “how big is this?”
These media are seen as newcomers and as co-existing with traditional news by Mast and Temmerman. To them, they are gaining legitimacy through their way of taking up space on the medium. The ease of access the participants are describing can be regcognised in research by Malin Svenningson, teens value fast distribution of ongoing events.
This is also meet by a more sceptical side, Marit and Sally for example, question the reliablility of these sources even though they use them regularly.
There are indications that young people are very aware of the limitations of online news, not deeming social media as a reliable source despite often getting their information from these platforms
“Nowadays anyone can put anything online in just a few minutes. Printing a paper still takes time. These people that search for and find things to put into a program or a paper, it’s their job and they consult experts and all that. I trust it more because it’s their job.”
“The weakness of Instagram is that it is mostly private people interacting, friends I follow and so on. What’s in the papers is true, it’s written by people who have news-making as a job.”
It is mostly the profession that makes them have trust in these journalistic stories, and in a smaller part also the organization and the level of establishment.
“It’s not a necessity, but when something has existed for a long time it does give it a trustworthiness, if you couldn’t trust an established source, there would be an outcry over it.”
Among journalistic actors, public service is seen as the most trustworthy.
“I’ve always seen the [public service network] as trustworthy more than VTM because it is a commercial actor, so to me VRT is always the most trustworthy.”
“[the public service network] is being paid by taxation, so they don’t have to make their articles and items clickbait to get money.”
Journalists are seen as more trustworthy because of their profession, and public service is seen as a sort of pinnacle of journalistic integrity, partly because of its dissociation to market values.
What are the features of social media that make learning from social media possible? A few of the things that are mentioned as valuable about news in the digital space is the possibility for personalization and the speed at which information can travel.
“I would say something that is good about social media is that if it’s actually real information it is an incredibly fast way of reaching out to the public.”
Another feature of social media is making complicated stories more simple.
“I like that you have these accounts that are there to summarize and shorten real news stories, that might not reach you otherwise. Maybe they’re complicated or it’s hard to see what exactly is going on, and they just give you all the basic info. Then you can choose for yourself if you want to read more.”
“I feel like on TikTok you have these dramatic people who tell dramatic stories so if I see something on TikTok I’m not going to really trust it.”
However, traditional news is still what lends trustworthiness to news commentators on social media. Amira explains that she tends to trust TikTokers more if they cite traditional news which on TikTok is often done by the person in the video standing in front of a greenscreen with a screenshot of a news-story on it.
Marit compares sources from social media outlets to “real news”. Her choice of expression reveals a dichotomous view and in some sense her view on the sources she refers to. The sources that are seen as news are mostly just the traditional news. The youth do not see for example news commentators on TikTok as bearers of news, which is also reflected in not including these in their media diaries. In Malin Sveningsons text where she also interviewed youth, we see the same scepticism of non-traditional media (2015). We also see that the youth prefer to engage with information that is easily and quickly available to them.
When speaking further on different sources for information, one of the participants mentions eye.of.palestine, an Instagram account that publishes personal stories from different sources at the heart of the conflict. This also goes through to her TikTok, where similar content will come up on her For You page.
“For example in Israel-Palestine there are a lot of Palestinians that do things on TikTok, like saying that this is what’s going on and so on, while the government wants to put another image out there. So to me the truth is somewhere in between, you shouldn’t just read articles by papers here but also things that people that are there put out.”
This is met by another perspective:
“I think that most people like that are not the most trustworthy because they will usually be in shock as well, and not in a state to have an objective perspective. But of course journalists will be more trustworthy the closer they are to the story, that’s their job as well, to stay objective.”
The role of the more personal stories that are used by news sites and individual or activist actors alike, do have a part to play in establishing interest, and are seen in two ways by the youth: first of all as sometimes deceptive, but also as evoking a strong response in themselves.
“I think that it is easier to follow news channels because they give a quicker overview, while personal stories can take more energy to follow, you have to think harder and it’s easy to get to deep into it which is going to affect your mood in the end, so you have to have a balance.”
“Yeah, to me it is important to search for people close to the story, but it does influence you a lot. So I think when something causes emotions you really have to think about why.”
“It’s also a tactic being used, to dramatize stories, and for views and clicks. Then people don’t look at news as objectively anymore. If you see a lot of images of victims, then people are more inclined to go for that side of the conflict.”
The swedish youth talked about TNKVRT in a bit more detail, adressing it’s character and the pros and cons.
“News papers write fact-based content and that’s sometimes boring. TNKVRT writes “I think”.”
“If you would compare P3 and TNKVRT, the content that TNKVRT produces make people feel more strongly, and it’s also more likely they might share content because of that.”
For the Swedish youth, their consumption of TNKVRT is treated the same as other sources, yet they are still critical when it comes to defining it as news. When they need to factcheck, they turn to traditional media, showing their trust is higher here.
TNKVRT as a source is consumed as news yet not seen as such. What makes them not see it as news is strictly its non-connection to journalists as a group. From the perspective of news value, this means that the journalistic methods and aesthetics, applied by the owner of the account do not do much for the trustworthiness of the source. The most important feature of journalism, which is lacking here according to the participants, is professional objectivity. The journalistic field becomes a gatekeeper for this objectivity.
Social media is often used as a first source because it is a quick way to understand things and because it exposes them to new information.