Student Research Projects

How Students Get their News: An Examination of College Students and their News Sources in the Digital Age

Student Jill Reynolds, ‘14
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Communication
Course COMM 331: Mass Communication Research Methods


What do Jon Stewart, podcasts and college newspapers have in common? In this study, college students were surveyed to explore the most commonly consulted news media and credibility ratings for those media. Results were partially consistent with current communication literature, suggesting college students frequently rely on comedy news shows, various Internet resources and college newspaper for current events and news. However, the most frequently consulted news source was the downloadable podcast. Online newspapers were the least frequently consulted sources. Characteristics valued in their media choices were ability to get constant updates, entertainment value, and convenience. Reliability of news was not a robust variable among the characteristics students valued. In fact, students did not think that their sources were able to separate fact from fiction; yet this was not considered a highly important characteristic in their choices. While some research suggests that college students are passive in their information-seeking habits, 78.8% of respondents in this study indicated they actively seek alternate news sources if they suspected their sources were unreliable. Finally, students indicated traditional communication methods, such as television and word of mouth, were most consulted when seeking emergency information during Hurricane Sandy. Social media use for news ranked fairly high during the storm, but was at the bottom for general news consumption. These findings suggest that today’s young media consumer is active, versatile, and discerning, using a wide array of communication tools to satisfy diverse information needs in the digital age.