Most mornings, I wake up, read theSkimm, and head to the J-school. Throughout the day, I check Twitter and read tons of content. Well- I don’t know if I read it, but I at least see it. By the time I get to my last class, usually one where we discuss the news, I should be an expert on the day’s events, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not always how it turns out.
Sure… I have enough knowledge on the headlining stories that I can participate for the first 5 seconds of a discussion. But once someone comes at the story from a different angle than the one I Skimmed or saw in 25 words on Twitter, I’m dumbfounded, and I know I’m not the only one. In most of my classes, the vast majority of students claim theSkimm and Twitter are their main news sources.
This is concerning because skimming the news is a potentially dangerous habit to form. My generation, particularly those of us who study journalism, prides itself on being up-to-date on current events and being on the forefront of change. But we’ve trained our brains to take shortcuts as we read the news, and media sources like the Skimm and Twitter just feed these shortcomings.
One could argue that on Twitter, links to full stories are often attached and on theSkimm, hyperlinks speckle the content. But how often do we really click on the links and read the full stories attached to them? I often find myself flagging a linked tweet for later reading, but rarely find myself revisiting the link to read it. And even when I do follow the link from theSkimm or Twitter to a story, how much information do I actually retain reading it with my skim-trained mind?
In a 2014 article in The Washington Post by Michael Rosenwald, “Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming,” researchers argue just this. Apparently, since we are trained to speed-read all the content our eyes see when we check sources like Twitter and theSkimm, we are losing our ability to actually read and comprehend full stories. Our brains are developing shortcuts from the interactivity of the Internet – videos beside text, hyperlinks and content overload are some of the culprits.
New media evolutions are adding to the problem. Think Snapchat Discover, named “the biggest thing in news media since Twitter” by Fusion magazine. There has never been a news source that allows easier access to a news story – all we have to do on Snapchat Discover is swipe our fingers a couple of times and listen, yes – listen, to a quick synopsis of the following story. The user must swipe downward to read the short news story, but after watching a video, I find myself skimming the content for a few key facts.
Some argue that this is a method of bringing news to millennials who were losing interest in current events. But by making news so readily available that it doesn’t even have to be read or watched in full, I argue that we are just training my generation to skim the surface of a story. Speaking from personal experience and lack of knowledge even after reading theSkimm, watching Snapchat Discover, and scrolling through Twitter, this isn’t reading the news.