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media and the Internet transformed communications even further, he says.
That’s why Rosenstiel wants to influence students while they’re “educable and in a controlled environment” at school.
“They’re the generation who have grown up with a command of their media consumption to a much greater degree,” Rosenstiel says. By encouraging students to think critically about election coverage, the Newsela partnership could help raise the level of public discussion about politics—and improve journalism to boot, he says.
“The most important way to influence the quality of discourse is to elevate the demand side for news,” Rosenstiel says. “If members of the community can discern what news is reliable and when it’s not, and filter out unsubstantiated statements, then you’re going to get better journalism.”
Literate readers will notice if they can’t find the sources relied on by the writer of an article. This will put pressure on media of all kinds, but it’s a problem technology can help solve, Rosenstiel says. Cheap Web-based data storage makes it possible for media organizations to publish pages of footnotes, giving the sources behind each story, he says.
Rosenstiel is optimistic that young digital natives can appreciate quality news coverage and think critically about it. While the rise of social media initially led to worries that Millennials had little appetite for news, Rosenstiel says young adults are absorbing significant amounts of news—much of it filtered through social media channels.
The “fretters” were also wrong when they predicted that attentions spans were dropping, Rosenstiel says. While young adults are now reading on the small screens of smartphones instead of on laptops or PC’s, he says, they’re reading long-form journalism stories on their mobile devices. Rosenstiel wants to build on these trends for the next generation.