Kevin Nodarse, a senior at Christopher Columbus High School, can hardly remember the last time he sat down to read a newspaper.
“Oh god, that was awhile ago. It’s been a long time,” Nodarse, 17, said. Despite this, he has remained anything but uninformed. “With the internet, everything comes out from different outlets at the same time,” he explained. “You can see how all the info lines up, and say ‘okay, if ten credible sources are saying the same thing, it’s probably true.’”
Nodarse is one of many young people who have begun to seek alternatives to traditional media outlets, and finding them through social media networks and other online sources. For years, news has been imparted to the public on the printed page and over the airwaves. But with fifty-nine percent of Twitter users utilizing the social media network for news, as well as sixty-six percent of Facebook users and seventy percent of Reddit users utilizing those sites for the same purpose, the way Americans consume their news has begun to change—and the journalistic reformation has made its way into the halls of Christopher Columbus High School.
“I don’t think just because it’s traditional, it’s trustworthy,” said Pietro Palazzolo-Russo, a senior at Christopher Columbus High School, of conventional media outlets. “I feel like nowadays, the opinion of one network has become more polarized in comparison to the others. I feel like they’ve gotten more radical in a sense. Before, we used to be closer to a middle ground. Now we’re toward the ends.”
Nodarse agrees. “I think it’s almost impossible to completely eliminate personal bias,” he said. “I think [major news outlets] definitely editorialize to support their own viewpoints. It all depends on who actually is producing that segment, who’s anchoring, who wrote the script.”
As students drift away from traditional news outlets and towards online sources, student media at the school has followed suit. The Log, Christopher Columbus High School’s student-run newspaper, made the shift two years ago from the printed page to the computer screen.
“It was a slow process,” Robert Linfors, faculty advisor to The Log, recalled. “For a few years we were actually doing both, and I wanted to get a feel for how the students reacted to it. And it was exactly what I thought would happen. The students liked the digital, and the teachers really liked the print.”
But as more news outlets shift from print to digital, Linfors worries that more of his students may not be consuming the most accurate or comprehensive information. “How much of the full truth are we getting on many of these stories?” Linfors asked. “I think they’re gonna have a lot of information on their fingertips, which is good. The downside of it is that there’s so much of it in a short format, and they won’t have the experience of going into stories in depth. And I think that’s a problem.”
Palazzolo-Russo recognizes these downsides as well. “The internet is a great resource and it opens doors to do research on any news I want,” the Columbus student said. “But for some sources, I have no way of telling how reputable it is. It could be made up for all I know.”
Despite this, Columbus students remain wary of traditional media outlets. Seeing the political climate as polarizing and traditional media sources as biased, students often look at news sources with a doubtful eye. “It makes me be more cautious,” Nodarse said. “I have to think about it and develop my own opinion, not basing it off of anyone else’s.”
The next time Palazzolo-Russo tunes into the evening news, he won’t expect any changes in old media’s divisiveness.
“I think in the near future it’s gonna grow. Maybe eventually it’ll find its balance, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon.”