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10 Things We Learned About Teenagers and the News: The Results of Our Student ‘News Diet’ Challenge


Winning video by Emma Claire Lisk, 16, of Hoggard High School.

It’s safe to say that few of the teenagers who took part in our media literacy challenge, Explore Your Relationship with News. were excited when their teachers first assigned it.

“‘Oh, another irrelevant assignment brought forth by my teacher to fill time before winter break,’ I believe was the exact thought that went through my head,” wrote Sarah Cannon, 17, of East Grand Rapids High School.

The challenge was time-consuming, and we knew we were asking a lot. To participate, students had to complete three tasks:

1. Do a personal 24- to 48-hour news audit in which you record all the news you get now, where it comes from and how well it meets your needs and interests.

2. Change your “news diet” to make it better meet your needs. Tinker with sources, content and platforms to address what you discovered in your news audit.

3. In a personal essay (500 words or fewer) or video (one minute or shorter), reflect on your experiences before and after you experimented with your news diet, and sum up how you see the role of news in your life now.

But as they reflected on the results, most students told us they were glad they did it. Max Wilson, 16, of Cresskill High School put it this way:

Examining, logging, and changing my media diet has been an incredibly eye-opening process. Just like the products at your average fast food joint, my media diet was composed of four low quality ingredients in different combinations — bias, selective reporting, out-of-context quotes, and irrelevant purposes.

We heard from 358 teenagers, most clustered in high schools where their teachers obviously took days, if not a week or more, to guide the process. (Teachers, we can’t thank you enough. In fact, since the challenge was a new one for us, we’d love to hear how it felt on your end, and if you are seeing any continuing effects on your students. Please feel free to post a comment here, or write to us at LNFeedback@nytimes.com.)

Below we list our winners, runners-up and honorable mentions, and showcase the essays of our top students. Throughout, we’ve also embedded the five videos we liked best.

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