For the Sake of Smart News

Today we're going to talk about something that's been on my mind for a few weeks now. I want to talk about the dumbing down of media for the sake of millennials and why I think that's dumb. If you're reading this and you happen to not be apart of arguably the most hated demographic on the planet right now, I hope this can shed some light. And if you are 18-34 (the generally accepted age range that can be classified as "millennials") I hope you get what I'm talking about.

For some backstory: I'm a media arts and design major with a journalism concentration, which is basically just a long and convoluted way of saying a large part of my schoolwork requires following the Associated Press on Twitter. I'm super attuned to all types of media, whether that be traditional print and TV, social networks, or online spaces that bridge the gap between the two. And while I love a good Keeping Up With the Kardashians marathon, (or, as my stepdad calls them, the "Kar-DAZZ-ians") I do my best to keep up with current events. But here's the thing about being a millennial: I have a little bit of an attention span issue. I'll admit it: it's very difficult to capture my focus for the duration of an entire New York Times article. So I get my news from outlets that better suit my needs: Twitter news updates, CNN push notifications on my phone, and daily rundowns from The Skimm, for example.

For those of you who may not know, The Skimm is a genius daily writeup of the most pressing news, sent to your email inbox every weekday morning. It's short, sweet, and to the point; I read it while I drink my morning coffee or catch the bus to campus. No news story is greater than 200 words, so I can get the big picture details without pouring over a three-page spread. And if I want more information on a particularly interesting story, there's often a hyperlink that takes me to a longer article to fill in the gaps. It's a really great solution to the attention span problem most people my age have, but it has something in common with a lot of other media outlets that rubs me the wrong way: it plays dumb in an attempt to get me on board.

If you're a Skimm subscriber, you know they love their kitschy headlines and cute analogies. And yes, sometimes those help. But there's a line you cross as a content creator when you overly sugar-coat news to get your audience on board. When I read things like "Donald Trump is, like, totally not your bestie right now!" I feel like I'm being patronized toward. I don't need someone to tell me a primary election is like "a pregame for the banger happening in November!!!" for me to understand the bare bones of politics. I may be a millennial, but I'm not stupid.

And it's not just The Skimm that does this! I'm not blaming them at all! I think it's part of a bigger problem I've been noticing since middle school. Remember begging your mom to buy you Tiger Beat magazine at the grocery store and then reading the articles on the way home and wanting to vomit? I do. Because even then I wasn't reading "that hottie in your Spanish class is totes amaze!" without rolling my eyes. Yeah, I might've been twelve, but even then I was smarter than that. Most people my age are, and to assume otherwise is to project these less-than-stellar expectations on us for no reason.

So here's what I'm proposing: keep the information on the shorter side. Acknowledge that we're attuned to faster information and more outlets to get our news, so say it quick and be smart about it. Yes, we have an amazing amount of technology and software at our fingertips now, which means media has to evolve. I'm sorry if that bothers you, but that's just how it is now. I wish content creators would spend more time reworking the way they're informing us, instead of writing thinkpieces about how we're vapid and shallow. When we're only given dumbed down information, don't blame us when that's what we become accustomed to.


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