Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Despite the breadth of our academic explorations, it can often feel like Swarthmore is its own alternate reality, unhinged from what is happening in the outside world. So this week Swat Visually set out to find out about – and then, of course, share – the news habits of Swatties.
The initial result from this week that struck me was just how many people use Facebook as one of their primary sources of news. Half of our sample size reported it, and only one person out of that half reported it as their third go-to news site. For everyone else, it was their first or second stop. Now, I can’t pretend as if I don’t use Facebook for my news. Swatties often post really interesting articles that I might not have come across otherwise. However, I wonder what the implications are if half – or even a tenth – of our student body got their news from Facebook, and – specifically –from the same network of people on Facebook. The data from this questionnaire doesn’t show what kind of content people are seeing on their newsfeeds, so it may include a diverse range of sites. But if my own Facebook is any indication, the same sites tend to appear again and again.
And if that weren’t enough, one-third of the sample gets their news from the New York Times. In total – 72% of the sample gets their news from the same two sources, Facebook and NY Times. I don’t know about you, but this raises serious questions for me about the diversity of news coming into campus. There’s no way Facebook and Twitter can really represent the diversity of news out there. So what are we missing?
The second interesting finding from this week is that Swatties are really bad at approximating how informed they are compared to everyone else. Seriously, there was no correlation between how informed Swatties thought they were, and where they actually fell within the sample.
Of course, keep in mind that my sample size was quite small (if you’re as sad about that as I am, please help push Swat Visually questionnaires out to your friends!) and biased to the students who read the DG.
Finally, here are my favorite answers from this week:
1. Someone listed their Great Aunt as their secondary source of news. If only we all had a Great Aunt who did that.
2. To the person who specified “New York Times – but only the headlines,” well done. You were the only one to admit what the vast, vast majority of us are guilty of.
For next week, Swat Visually is tackling love. Well, Screw Your Roommate. But same thing right? After all, they don’t call this the Quaker matchbox for nothing. Follow this link or scroll down to the embedded form to tell us all about your awkward, amazing, strange, or totally romantic screw experiences.
See you next week,
P.S. In case any of you were inspired to look for a new source of news, here is the complete list of news sites Swatties listed in the questionnaire:
– Al Jazeera English
– Daily Beast Cheat Sheet
– Daily Intelligencer
– Freethought Blogs
– Google Alerts
– (Someone’s) Great Aunt
– AP News RSS Feed (solid idea. Will definitely start doing this…)
– Google News
– The Daily Show
– Drudge Report
– New York Times
– The Economist
– Huffington Post
– Daily Gazette (I mean, obviously)