Young adults get their news from a new ‘big three’

This generation of students gets its news from much different sources than, say, its grandparents did when they were younger.

Instead of watching news anchors on the “big three” news networks, today’s young adults are watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report or The Late Show with David Letterman – shows that present the news of the day with a tinge of comedy.

With the exit of the “big three” news anchors – beginning in December 2004 with Tom Brokaw’s retirement, continuing with Dan Rather’s retirement in March 2005 and finally Peter Jennings’ death in August 2005 – came the end of an era that was beginning to come to an end anyway.

Since the dawn of the Internet and 24-hour cable news channels, nightly network newscasts have been left in the dust because people can get their news with more up-to-the-minute coverage. Yet because they now find CNN, Fox News and the like to be boring and, in some cases, untrustworthy – and due to their need to be entertained – today’s young adults are turning more and more to shows such as the aforementioned Daily Show or Web sites such as

These avenues provide a comic twist to news that is going on in the world, a stark contrast to the stolid, deathly solemnity of traditional network news broadcasts.

Though The Daily Show prides itself on being “the mistrusted name in news,” Daily Show viewers were found to be in the know during the 2004 election cycle. The University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey found that those who watched The Daily Show were more interested in the happenings of the election and better informed about the candidates than those who did not watch any such programs.

“In fact, Daily Show viewers have higher campaign knowledge than national news viewers and newspaper readers, even when education, party identification, following politics, watching cable news, receiving campaign information online, age and gender are taken into consideration,” said Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, a senior analyst at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Despite their silly nature and self-proclaimed lack of news value, “fake” news sources such as The Colbert Report and are getting young adults interested in what’s going on in the world while entertaining them. The end result is essentially, most would agree, a good thing. To many older generations and educators, however, this may not seem a responsible method of self-edification.

And they are correct – it is not responsible to rely solely on or The Daily Show to provide all the news one needs to know. Even though they are getting enough news to be well informed, young adults should turn to news sources – from local, national and international to webcast, broadcast and print – to be sure they are getting a full view of the news from more than one source.