We need to educate Gen X, Millennials on unique principles of newspaper journalism


Now more than ever, newspapers need to educate the public in the differences between us and our competition.

Do newspapers express opinions? Yes, but it’s on the editorial page or identified as “analysis.” The news stories follow journalistic principles of accuracy and fairness. We need to point out this difference when compared to radio talk shows or cable TV evening “news” shows.

Newspapers cover local government units on a regular basis. Reporters are at the county commissioners, city council or school board meetings as a matter of course. Local TV will be there when a controversy erupts.

Indiana newspapers are not purveyors of “fake news” – never have been and never will. Credibility has always been the commodity that paid-circulation newspapers sell. If you can’t believe your local newspaper, there’s no reason to subscribe, so newsrooms must meet their responsibility to provide accurate news with every issue.

When a newspaper makes an error, you’ll see a correction when its brought to their attention. That’s being responsible. I can’t say when the last time I saw a radio or TV station broadcast a correction and I don’t believe them to be more perfect than newspapers.

Indiana newspapers are not purveyors of “fake news” – never have been and never will.

Newspaper stories give you the source of the information. They quote the source and tell you who provided the information referenced in the story. They use public records to support a story concerning the actions of government officials. Do you get that from the community Facebook page that you follow?

By failing to point out our strengths, we allow critics to lump us into the “biased media,” much to our detriment.

I’m not saying publishers, editors and reporters don’t come to the office with preconceived ideas and biases developed over their lives. But real journalism works to edit those biases before the story hits the press. Fairness to all sides of an issue is the goal. Such fairness allows truth to emerge for the readers.

As famed journalist Carl Bernstein notes: “Journalism is the best obtainable version of the truth.”

I listened last week to a presentation by Chuck Underwood, He is the founder of “TGI” – The Generational Imperative, Inc. – an Ohio-based generational consulting firm. He consults and trains corporations and organizations in Generational Workplace Strategy and Generational Marketplace Strategy. He is an expert on the different core values exhibited by the present six generations in the United States. 

He told the assembled executive directors of press associations that we as an industry need to educate the Gen X and Millennials on the value of newspapers.

Underwood described the Gen Xers (born 1965 -1981) as cynical and distrustful of business and government. Consequently, they are more self-focused and disengaged. The disengagement leads them not to look at newspapers.

This means we need to educate Gen Xers to the value of newspapers as a source of news that plays to their independent and self-reliant traits.

Meanwhile, Underwood talks about Millennials (born 1982-2000 and maybe younger) as team players and socially active with a desire to help the less fortunate. They are much more interested in activism, volunteerism and idealism. 

Newspapers have an opportunity to tap into this engaged generation by providing the information to help empower the Millennials.

Both generational opportunities will be missed unless newspapers take the time to educate Gen X and Millennials on the principles of journalism and how newspapers stand uniquely apart from radio, TV, cable TV and social media.