I had an assignment for my American Electronic Media class that I'm proud to share with you. Written below is an essay about how college students consumed mass media in the 1960s compared to today. I also conducted an interview for research on the topic. Again, any commentary is greatly appreciated!
Our Changing Relationship with Media: LaGuardia’s World vs. Our World
“Speed of comprehension, or depth of comprehension?” This is a question I ask myself about reading comprehension. Today, it seems that many college students “skim,” “sample,” or “check out” forms of literature, as well as other mass mediums. The most important mediums today are film, TV, radio, recorded music, books, and periodicals. These mediums were important back in the mid 1960s, but college students consumed them differently back then. I interviewed Dr. David LaGuardia to investigate how college students consumed mass media in that period. My findings suggest that media consumption was a much slower process.
In the mid ‘60s, LaGuardia’s literature major required reading periodicals more often than watching TV, as he had many scholarly papers to write. Citing sources demanded an elaborate process. LaGuardia went to his university’s library to find sources. At that time, the Dewey Decimal System and alphabetization were standard methods to find specific scholarly journals. When the library did not have a source he wanted, he would have to take a bus to Case Western Reserve, which he could never do. The fact that some citations required any travel outside of a university’s campus is shocking enough.
With President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, college students throughout America were glued to radio and TV sets. The event was catastrophic enough for LaGuardia to be engulfed in mass hysteria.
Now, Internet databases make citing sources simple and quick. We do not have to travel beyond John Carroll’s campus to find a relevant source; Google eliminates vehicular transportation entirely. We now can amass relevant sources within a maximum of a few days.
With the recent Pulse nightclub shooting, millennials received coverage through Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as through “reblogging” on Tumblr. Reblogging means to repost other blogs’ content, and it spreads Internet memes on the site almost instantaneously. With Facebook and Twitter, many college students simply follow or like an outlet’s page, and they will be bombarded with links to articles from newer news outlets such as Mic.com, Vox Media, theSkimm (an email-based outlet), and Wired. These outlets mark a growing trend of college students distrusting older media companies, such as the TV news giants. Internet memes seem to be consumed as credible information as well.
Yet, my initial question still persists: How do college students consume news, particularly the newer outlets? My stepdad once told me that web surfing shortens attention spans and diminish comprehension. According to Colin Harrison, “College students who are poor readers have told me that although it is true that in principle online learners can work at their own pace, in reality there is so much reading that “the pace is always too fast.’” This suggests that one large problem is not whether Internet reading degrades reading comprehension, but those who already read poorly cannot keep up with the speed of college classes. Elsewhere, Harrison suggests three methods for supporting struggling readers:
1. Be aware of the problem and gain as much knowledge as possible of the tools available to support the needs of students reading on their own.
2. Be ready to offer additional support through extra tutorial assistance and, where possible, with such re- sources as targeted videos and podcasts.
3. Be creative in seeking to offer learning opportunities that replicate some of the experiences of face-to-face teaching, such as group projects or forums, video or audio conferencing tools, and peer-to-peer conversations in a variety of formats (Harrison and Alvermann).
There is hope for college students, but that hope must be assured quickly, given the pace of change in university pedagogy. Systemic changes could take years, or even decades. Many students will fall behind in classes with demanding paces.
To conclude, my reaction informs me that many millennials are meshed within an awkward transition period of how mass media is consumed. In the ‘60s, the process for academic work was slow, but it was well established in collegiate pedagogy. LaGuardia earned his literature major via a clear research process, which was likely augmented by his advanced reading abilities. To a millennial college student with reading disabilities, improving comprehension and research efficiency is far more daunting and time-consuming. In terms of news consumption, Big Media seems increasingly irrelevant to college students throughout America. Now, web media outlets point towards a “new journalism,” which is a term that I have come across in journalism periodicals. My initial question has now been modified: How can college students today become master students? I do not have a clear answer; I am only a college student, after all. Yet, in ten years I will have a developed sense of where mass media consumption is going. I can only hope that its direction benefits American culture as a whole.
Harrison, Colin and Donna Alvermann. "Are Computers, Smartphones, and the Internet a Boon or Barrier for the Weaker Reader?" Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 60.2 (2016): 221-225.