Twitter and the Times: How students consume their news


Lauren Ho, Maeve Goldman, and Mira Bansal

Connor Bernard (11) thinks that most people, almost unconsciously, gravitate towards news sources that reaffirm their personal views, he said. Bernard used to read only sources that confirmed his personal beliefs, but over the past year, he has gradually tried to view topics from more than one perspective, he said.

According to an anonymous Record poll conducted this week, out of 191 students, 39.7% of students’ primary news sources are newspapers or magazines, 30.4% of students who prefer cable television, and 25.3% of students acquire news from social media. 

Since the 2016 election, Ahaana Shrivastava (12) has used CNN as her main source of information because of its large presence across several platforms, easy access, and hosts’ opinions on important issues, she said. “Anderson Cooper was the first news anchor I was exposed to since he was involved in some of the debates during the 2016 presidential election, and from there I just continued watching him, since I agree with his views.”

Although she generally only reads CNN, sometimes Shrivastava will find other articles from other news outlets on the topic to supplement her knowledge with additional information, she said.

Mazyar Azmi (11) said that while it is “torture” to read articles he doesn’t agree with, it is important for people to expose themselves to different opinions. 

Sonia Shuster (12) makes sure that she reads news from a variety of sources across the political spectrum, as she wants to understand as many perspectives as possible, she said. Shuster receives news from several different platforms, including podcasts, magazines, newspapers on social media, and news websites, such as the Economist, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and the New York Times, she said. 

While some of Shuster’s friends do not want to read articles from more conservative news sources, because they think that they are biased, she thinks that all news sources have biases, which is why she likes to look at a topic from several different perspectives, she said.

Azmi does not like switching around several different news outlets, because he already knows which outlets are well-written and high-quality, he said. Azmi prefers reading the Washington Post, listening to the New York Times Daily Podcast, and receiving texts from a newspaper called the New Paper, which sends daily texts of important headlines. 

“[The New Paper has] no spin, no story, just the headline, which is very cool,” he said. “But at the same time, we talk all the time about how news is sensationalized, but with such a monotone outlook, it’s neither interesting nor engaging, so it’s not for everyone.”

During the 2020 election cycle, Azmi has enjoyed visiting the Politico page “2020 Candidates Views on the Issues: A Voter’s Guide,” which describes all of the candidates running for president and their stances on certain topics, he said.

Bernard has received most of his news from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times during the 2020 election cycle, as well as by watching the debates, he said. Depending on what topic he wants to read about, he will visit different sources. If Bernard wants to read about politics, he will read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, but if he wants to read about economics, he will read the Wall Street Journal and the Economist, he said.

Bernard enjoys reading these sources because they are all well-acclaimed and well-vetted, and although they are becoming more politically biased, they are still far less biased than many other news outlets like Fox News and CNN, he said.

Similarly, Shuster doesn’t trust any news outlet to do “purely objective factual reporting.” However, she finds that certain outlets are more reputable than others because they’re heavily fact checked, she said. “I try to read in between the lines and make sure that I’m getting mostly factual information rather than the stuff that’s more opinionated,” she said. “In this day and age, news outlets pick and choose what information and statistics they want to include, and which ones they want to leave out, which doesn’t necessarily make their arguments false, but just twisted.”

Even the Washington Post, Azmi’s preferred news outlet, cannot be read at face value, because it is owned by Amazon, he said. Azmi avoids reading any articles about the economy, free market, or anything else related to Amazon on the Washington Post, he said.

While Alexa Turteltaub (10) will read more fact-based articles on the New York Times website, her preferred news outlet, she finds the opinion articles and columnists to be more interesting, since they provide interesting perspectives and arguments, she said.

Turteltaub also reads and shares news with her friends on social media. “When I share social media posts, I try and find the source of where the information is coming from, because it’s very important to read and share reputable information, otherwise you can do a lot of damage spreading information that is unfounded,” Turteltaub said. When receiving news from social media, Turteltaub keeps in mind that media is not coming directly from journalists or researchers, she said. 

“It’s so easy to look at your phone, read something, and then scroll and keep on moving, but you have to make sure that you are making sure that it is factual before you simply absorb it and move on,” Shrivastava said.

Students who receive a lot of their news, particularly political news, from social media, should be careful, since it is rarely fact-checked and sometimes fraudulent, Bernard said. “If you’re looking for fast news, social media is the best place, but if you are looking for analysis and more in-depth news, you have to turn towards a traditional media outlet.”

Shrivastava doesn’t follow specific accounts on social media, and instead relies on the algorithm of the Explore page on Instagram or the For You page on TikTok for news, which she finds to be well curated, she said.

Frequently, while scrolling through TikTok, Bernard will see several political posts, but he generally ignores them because many videos tend to be misinformed, he said. “It’s not meant to be a platform for politics, and within the one-minute maximum time for videos, there’s not enough time for a complex political issue to be explained in depth,” he said.

Posts on TikTok tend to be heavily biased towards one side or the other, and the news is often portrayed the way the creator of the post wants it to be seen, which is why TikTok is not a reputable source, Rhea Patel (11) said.

There is also a bigger focus on politicians using social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok to spread news to Gen Z and young adults, Shrivastava said.

Social media is a powerful tool for politicians to communicate and expose themselves to young adults; however, viewers must be cognizant that many politicians treat social media as an advertising tool rather than a true news platform, Azmi said. “Politicians can and frequently will say whatever they need to on social media to garner your vote or get your support, which is why you can’t take everything at face value.”

However, there are still benefits to receiving news from both traditional news sources and social media, Shrivastava said. Traditional news sources are generally more trustworthy, since there usually are large teams working to make sure that all of the information they put out is accurate, while on social media, there is a benefit of an unfiltered and raw perspective, she said. There are benefits to both, which is why Shrivastava continues to use both sources when reading news, she said.

Patel also said traditional news sources are generally very reliable while social media frequently is not. However, social media can often be more accessible than many newspapers, she said. Ultimately, she finds the benefits of receiving news from traditional news sources to outweigh the benefits of receiving news from social media platforms.