Karen Peterson

Karen Peterson: Next generation cares about news, but reads it differently

Young people these days.

They walk around with their noses in their cellphones. They don’t care about the news. They’re not willing to spend money to get it.

Hold on, now.

A new report by the American Press Institute and Associated Press sheds encouraging light on the news habits of millennials, young adults ages 18-34. According to the report:

▪ 85 percent of millennials say keeping up with the news is important to them.

▪ 69 percent say they get news daily.

The younger generation is consuming news, but consuming it differently than those of us old enough to be their parents.

This is the first generation of “digital natives,” people born into an age of computers and cellphones. No one had to teach them to go online for information. It’s all they’ve known.

Much of their news comes through Facebook and other social media as stories are shared by friends or news organizations like The News Tribune. For young adults, social is king.

And mobile is king. They conduct their digital lives on their phones. It’s where they get their news.

“This generation tends not to consume news in discrete sessions or by going directly to news providers,” the report says. “Instead, news and information are woven into an often continuous but mindful way that millennials connect to the world generally.”

A problem for our business is that this generation was trained to believe information online is free. Paying good journalists, however, is expensive.

Encouragingly, 40 percent of milliennials in the survey said they pay for at least some of their news, either in print or in a digital app.

News organizations always have worried about the next generation, hoping that as young people progress in their careers, buy a home and raise a family, they’ll become more dedicated new consumers.

But millennials are a generation to watch for another reason. They are the trendsetters who taught the rest of us how to communicate by text message and set up a Facebook page.

They are pioneers for new ways to consume news. We’re glad they’re interested. It’s important we find ways to serve them.


You may have read a recent story in the New York Times looking into the airstrike against a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The story said the unit that approved the strike was from the Army’s First Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The story came across our New York Times wire, and we planned to run it on our front page. That would be big news in Tacoma — if true.

But first, News Tribune military writer Adam Ashton called First Group for a comment. And they said the story was wrong.

They didn’t have a team in Kunduz at the time of the airstrike, they said. In fact, they hadn’t been there in a year.

“1st SFG is putting its neck out saying on the record ‘it wasn’t us,’ ” Ashton emailed me after his call.

That was unusual for a unit so secretive about its operations. But what if they were spinning us?

We easily could have run the story with First Group’s denial. But if wrong, the story would needlessly besmirch a local unit.

Instead, we called The New York Times. Unable to get through to reporters that day, we held the story.

We reached them the next day and shared our concerns. We held the story for five days as they went back to their sources. (One TNT reader called in the meantime to say he’d read the Times story and wondered why we were withholding the news.)

On Monday, one of the Times reporters let us know his sources had been wrong. A unit from Third Special Forces Group headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was in Kunduz at the time of the bombing. It wasn’t a team from First Group.

In this case, we risked holding back the news to be sure the facts were right. We’re fortunate to have a military reporter with deep local sources he treats with equal parts skepticism and trust.

His gut told him his sources were being straight with him. We chose to follow his gut.

The New York Times ran a correction on Wednesday.


Staff photographer Drew Perine was honored for this photo of communications studies major Marissa Florant, top, and others celebrating in a downpour at the 2014 University of Puget Sound graduation. (Drew Perine, staff file, 2014.) 
Staff photographer Drew Perine was honored for this photo of communications studies major Marissa Florant and others celebrating in a downpour at the 2014 University of Puget Sound graduation. (Drew Perine, staff file, 2014.)

The Washington Coalition for Open Government last month awarded The News Tribune its James Madison Award. It recognizes a “long-term commitment to the cause of open government as demonstrated through exemplary words or deeds.”

The TNT was honored both for its watchdog journalism and for its willingness to fight in court for government transparency.

Also last month, a TNT team won the Dolly Connelly Excellence in Environmental Journalism Award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association. Reporter Rob Carson, photographer Dean Koepfler and graphic artist Jessica Randklev produced the winning entry, “Losing Paradise,” last year as a special section exploring Mount Rainier’s melting glaciers and the resulting threats to plants and animals, roads and historic buildings.

Contest judge Peter Jackson wrote: “It reflects the best in public service, environmental journalism — clear prose, tangible examples and connect-the-dots comprehensiveness.”

Connelly was a longtime freelance journalist who covered environmental issues in the Northwest.

Randklev’s work on Losing Paradise also earned her a second-place award in the Best of the West contest. The contest honors work by newspapers and news websites in 14 Western states.

TNT photographer Drew Perine took third place in the contest’s feature photography category for his shot of students celebrating in a downpour at the 2014 University of Puget Sound graduation.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434