News Engagement Day Aims to Boost Trust in Press, News Consumption
Paula Poindexter is on a mission.
Five years ago she wrote “Millennials, News, and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?” The book included studies about how millennials have the lowest consumer rate of news and showed the public’s declining interest in and trust of the press. With an unclear future for journalism, Poindexter knew something had to change.
So she founded News Engagement Day. She hoped it would reverse the stigma of the press and promote news literacy among the community and eventually, the world.
“I was concerned about the future of journalism, the future of news, the future of newspapers,” Poindexter said. “I looked at the decline [of news consumption], and if that trend continued, there would come a day where no one was paying attention, and news would go away.”
Poindexter chose the first Tuesday of October because it is a month from November elections and a time when most people should be paying attention, which she calls “a window of opportunity.” This year, she held a News Engagement Day press conference for the J310F Reporting: Words course. The news conference was part of a News Engagement Day assignment for the J310F reporters, who also interviewed UT students freshmen and seniors about their news consumption habits.
“I believe that, whether in journalism or not, it is so important that people are informed,” Poindexter said. “We need to use every opportunity that we can to encourage people to get informed.”
With the current administration “name calling” legacy news organizations, it’s understandable the public is confused, and it’s increasing distrust between the public and the press, Poindexter said.
Journalists need to be proactive in helping the public understand how news is made and how news is reported, she emphasized.
Poindexter corrected several misconceptions the public believes about the press: what is true is the press is protected under the First Amendment; professional journalists follow a code of ethics when reporting; the press doesn’t fabricate news.
“I think we take the press for granted and take being informed for granted,” Poindexter said. “We decide ‘Oh, it’s not that important,’ and well it is important because you want to know what is going on in your community, in your country, in the world.”
Although News Engagement Day is just one day out of the year, Poindexter hopes this movement will raise awareness about the importance of news for journalists, news outlets and the public, despite the current obstacles the press faces daily.
“The short answer is that we are at a critical point unless we do something to make sure that we help inform the public, then the credibility of the press will continue to decline, and it is going to hurt us as a democratic society,” she said.
Molly A. Crouch
Sophomore Journalism Major