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As teens' news awareness teeters, Loyola ignites students' interest in current events through first-ever National News Engagement Day

Loyola press release - October 2, 2014

Faced with growing concerns about young people who take no interest in news—a Pew Research Center study pegged roughly a third of those younger than 25 as “newsless”—Loyola University New Orleans School of Mass Communication is adopting a grass roots approach to boosting the news consumption of young people locally by bringing a first-ever nationwide effort to New Orleans. Called National News Engagement Day, set for Tuesday, Oct. 7, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, J.D. '85 and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are also declaring support for the local Loyola-led efforts through official proclamations urging residents to engage in the news by reading, watching, tweeting, sharing, liking and more.

At Loyola, officials found through a survey of 80 School of Mass Communication freshmen that the vast majority are not getting news from print publications or even TV news. Instead—if they are engaging in the news at all—they are getting it from a smart phone or a laptop. “We’ve got to rethink how to reach those millennials,” said Sonya Duhé, Ph.D., director of the School of Mass Communication.

That’s why the School of Mass Communication is bringing the National News Engagement Day effort (spearheaded by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication) to New Orleans when high school and college students across the nation will be urged to activate their mobile and social media platforms to boost their news consumption.

“The students are excited to be a part of bringing this first-ever nationwide effort to New Orleans. We understand how critical it is to change this decline in news consumption and make news today relevant to the millennial generation—these ‘digital natives.’ Our students plan to be engaging,” Duhé said.

Loyola will ask all students to download a local news app on their smart phones, enable “push notifications” and tweet any piece of news using the hashtag #newsengagementday. In return, participating students will receive an “I’m engaging” button to show their engagement with the news. By using the school’s Twitter hashtag—#loynosmc—students will also have the opportunity to win a mini iPad news reader.

“This is a great project to draw young people into the news. I see how advanced my own students are at using all of the new media out there—by the time I find out about a new platform or social media site, they've already moved on to the next hot thing. I think National News Engagement Day can help show them that all of these resources can be used for something more than gaming or just entertainment,” said Ted Mahne, adviser to the Jesuit Blue Jay student newspaper at Jesuit High School of New Orleans, one of the local schools participating in the citywide effort.

The year-long effort also includes a National News Engagement Day speaker series, the first of which features publisher of The Advocate newspapers John Georges in a free, public discussion Tuesday, Oct. 28 about media wars and the impact of entrepreneurship. The event, set for 7 p.m. in the St. Charles Room located on the first floor of the Danna Student Center, is sponsored by the School of Mass Communication as well as the newly launched Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development at Loyola.

Loyola is also making long-term changes to its curriculum to keep news relevant to millennials. For example, the School of Mass Communication just launched a new social media minor for students this semester to teach the importance of engaging in the news in a way that makes sense to them. In fact, students in Loyola’s social media class are overseeing the effort and even starting a “What’s Up Wednesday” where a news story will be placed on all the school’s social media platforms.