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Teens actively engaged with TV news, Medill study reveals

Nearly three out of four teenagers surveyed said they were engaged with local TV news on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, with similar trends across national news networks.

Nearly three out of four teenagers surveyed said they were engaged with local TV news on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, with similar trends across national news networks.

Teenagers are actively engaged with local and national television news on a regular basis, according to the findings of a new survey released this week.

The survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center in partnership with Medill School of Journalism asked more than 1,500 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 to offer their insight into their consumption habits of newspapers and television news.

The survey found 31 percent of teenagers were regularly engaged with local TV news on a weekly basis, while 29 percent watched national TV news programming along the same time frame. The figure decreased slightly to 26 percent for local TV news and 25 percent of national TV news on a monthly basis.

Just 13 percent of teenagers said they watched national TV news programming on a daily basis, while 15 percent said they engage with local TV news content daily. National news programming largely consists of news content produced by national networks like ABC, CBS and NBC, and doesn’t include cable news channels like CNN, Fox News or MSNBC.

The survey found 16 and 17-year-olds had higher levels of engagement with news content compared to their younger peers. Overall, the survey appeared to disprove the notion that younger Americans aren’t actively engaged in TV news content.

That said, survey organizers affirmed interest in local and national TV news programming wasn’t necessarily relegated exclusively to the TV set. Instead, teens were engaging with content across a number of different platforms, including streaming video services and social media.

“Teens may also encounter TV news on their phones and laptops,” Stephanie Edgerly, the associate dean of research at the Medill School of Journalism, said this week. “But there seems to be an accessibility to TV news that appeals to them.”

Paula Poindexter, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Journalism and Media, said the survey results should be evaluated with some caution, because “what’s not clear is whether teens deliberately turned on TV news or they encountered it because their parents were watching it.”

“We should keep that in mind,” Poindedter said.

But there is some data from the survey that suggests teens might be seeking out local and national news on their own, or coming across it on the platforms where they are engaging with other types of content.

More than 50 percent of teens surveyed said they come across local or national news content on TikTok, while the number was even higher — nearly 60 percent — on YouTube.

Twitter, which rebranded to X shortly after the survey concluded in late April, saw some of the lowest engagement with news content according to teens surveyed, with 66 percent saying they never engaged with news stories found on that platform. Similar trends were found on Facebook and Snapchat, with fewer teens reporting news engagement on those platforms. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook’s parent Meta Platforms, saw nearly an equal number of teens engaged and disengaged with news content.

Schools are also providing an outlet for exposure to news content among teenagers, with 75 percent of students surveyed saying they had at least one conversation in the classroom about a news story over the past 12 months. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed also said they received information in school on media literacy, including how to tell which sources of information can be trusted.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).