Twenty years ago, one couldn’t find what was going on in the world or nation simply by checking Twitter, Snapchat or Yahoo! News.
But now, these are high schoolers’ favorite news outlets.
Of 99 students polled on Jan. 31, 62 said they get their news from online sources, such as CNN and The Huffington Post, 43 said they use Snapchat, and 31 said they use Twitter.
Freshman Jewel Turner said that she checks her preferred news source, Snapchat, multiple times a day.
“On any given day, Snapchat reaches 41 percent of all 18 to 34-year-olds in the U.S.,” a Snapchat spokesperson (who asked to remain anonymous) said. “In comparison, an average individual U.S. TV network reaches only 6 percent of the same demographic.”
Snapchat has recently developed several features, such as Snapchat Discover, aimed to give users (including many young people) accessibility to news.
Launched globally in January 2015, Snapchat’s Discover “is a place for Snapchatters to explore content from an expert editorial perspective,” the spokesperson said.
Discover has two types of content: Our Stories, which are compilations of users’ snaps at events and places all over the world put together by teams of editors at Snapchat, and editions and shows created by prominent media companies.
These name-brand media companies include CNN, People, MTV and National Geographic, and are, therefore, credible and authoritative partners, according to the spokesperson.
“I like how quick it is,” Turner said. “It’s also interesting seeing news from other people’s perspectives.”
In fact, Discover aims to share news from different perspectives, according to the spokesperson.
For example, Our Stories is from the community perspective and includes Snapchat photo or videos.
Users are thrown “into the experience of events from all different points of view,” the spokesperson said.
Turner said that Discover also provides a behind-the-scenes aspect, which makes the news it covers seem more real.
She said she first heard about the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting from a news source on Discover.
For Turner, a minor problem with Discover is that it covers too many mainstream events.
However, she said she has no problem with the reliability of Snapchat, and Snapchat actually prides itself on its validity.
Snapchat’s Live Stories are rigorously edited and fact-checked before being published, the spokesperson said.
Snapchat also added a news- and political-coverage feature in the spring of 2015, according to the spokesperson.
“We believe that Snapchatters are curious and hungry for smart and unique perspectives,” she said.
Like Snapchat, Twitter has also added a feature, Twitter Moments, aimed to make the popular app more newsy.
This feature, which sophomore Bella Mathisen uses as her primary news source, offers easier news accessibility.
Twitter Moments, launched on Oct. 6, 2015, allows users to view “curated stories showcasing the very best of what’s happening on Twitter,” according to Twitter’s website.
“Each Twitter Moment is made up of compelling as well as factually accurate tweets about an event, trending topic, or news story,” said Victoria Loustalot, ‘03. (Loustalot is the global programming lead for Moments.)
“The tweets are strung together in such a way that each Moment has a beginning, a middle and an end. When a user finishes reading a Moment, they should have a comprehensive understanding of what happened, when it happened, where it happened, and who it happened to.”
For example, on April 12, the Twitter Moments team published a Twitter Moment on United Airlines refunding passengers who witnessed David Dao’s violent removal from Flight 3411.
The business Moment started with a photo via @ExmpEmpresas and a summary of the Moment: “The airline is offering refunds to the passengers who witnessed the brutal, forced removal of passenger David Dao from the flight.”
As viewers swiped left, they could see tweets from major news outlets such as CNBC and tweets from other Twitter users who voiced their opinions on the incident.
The goal of Moments is to make it easy for users to find the most interesting content on Twitter and to quickly understand why everyone on Twitter is tweeting about a certain topic, Loustalot said.
Mathisen said she likes Moments because it includes breaking-news stories as well as other less-serious news pieces.
“I can learn about what’s going on in the world and (then) simply scroll down to view a more light-hearted story,” Mathisen said.
Twitter is also where Mathisen first hears about most major news events, such as president Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Within minutes of Trump signing the executive order, #TrumpBan was trending on Twitter.
“Anything about Trump is instantly tweeted about,” she said.
Mathisen said she also likes Twitter because when stories are embedded in tweets, she can read just the headline to get the essence of the story.
“You can get a lot of information without reading a lot,” she said.
But despite Twitter’s many positive qualities, Mathisen said that a major downside is its reliability.
Often opinionated Twitter posts can be mistaken for facts, she said.
So when Mathisen doubts the validity of a tweet, she Googles the event described.
Sophomore Blake Lincoln likes getting his news fast, too, but he uses online news sources rather than social media.
Lincoln, who has apps for FOX, CNN Politics and the Hill, said he checks the news sources on his phone about four times per day.
But obviously, checking which hashtags were trending or viewing Twitter’s Moments wasn’t how students used to get their news.
History teacher Daniel Neukom, who was a high schooler in 1963-67, said he mostly used the local newspaper, Time magazine, the radio and television as news sources.
He said he would read The San Francisco Chronicle at breakfast, then listen to the radio after school (since radios weren’t allowed at school), then watch the national news at night.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, AM radio was really big, Neukom said.
“They would play music and have a five-minute news broadcast on the hour and a two-minute news broadcast on the half hour,” he said.
So he would tune in then to hear the news.
Neukom referred to AM radio as the “web of his day” due to its convenience.
But he said the most popular news source for teenagers (and adults) was television.
“We (high schoolers) would watch the 6 p.m. evening news with Walter Cronkite or the Huntley-Brinkley Report,” Neukom said.
To hear about a breaking news event, Neukom said he usually turned to the TV.
When president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Neukom first heard about it at school but watched additional coverage at home on television all weekend.
And in 2001, when 9/11 happened, Neukom watched the coverage on television.
“Even though there was internet access then, many people used the TV,” he said.
However, now Neukom uses mostly the internet as his news source.
“You can access it any time you want,” he said. “You don’t have to wait for the 6 p.m. news or the morning paper.”
But, like Mathisen, Neukom worries about the reliability of internet news.
When it comes to sources like Yahoo! News, Neukom said that he is wary of the stories since the reader isn’t always sure who’s reporting on it.
“That isn’t to say all sources are like that,” Neukom said. “With the New York Times website, there are pro journalists writing.”
There are some SCDS students who continue the tradition of watching TV and reading newspapers for news.
In the poll, 22 students said they read a print newspaper, and sophomore Heidi Johnson is one of them.
But Johnson, who reads The Sacramento Bee a couple times per week, said that newspapers aren’t her preferred news source.
“I’ll read a newspaper if it’s lying around my house,” Johnson said. “But I prefer using online news sources.”
Lincoln watches TV as well for a “daily briefing of the day’s events,” he said.
On the shows he watches, which are mostly on Fox News Channel and CNN, there are often commentators, allowing the audience to get more perspectives, he said.
But Neukom said he’s now worried about people getting their news primarily from one source.
Now, there’s an excess of availability in news, and much of it is untrustworthy or “fake news” or presented with a slant, Neukom said.
“I hope (students) access a known and long-term news provider when they look for news,” he said.
—By Katia Dahmani