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With the fourth industrial revolution well under way, the future of print journalism has been called into question. 

Newspapers will now have to shift gears in order to stay ahead of the game and keep up with the transformative digital age. As the media landscape continues to evolve around the globe, GN Focus connects with the young media students across the UAE to understand their news consumption habits and also to find out how they expect the local news media to innovate to enhance engagement with this generation. Here’s what they told us. 

Unbiased, credible journalism

Alia Al Matroushi, 21, Emirati, Mass Communications at the American University of Sharjah

Print journalism will continue to hold a vital place in the media realm. I always turn to newspapers for news and information because I enjoy the experience of reading on paper more than on screens. I am interested in news on politics so the credibility of information is the most critical element for me when I pick up a newspaper. I also look for stories on women’s empowerment and their evolving role in the society, especially in the Middle East. To enhance engagement and keep stories relevant to readers, publications need to work with credible writers who know their beats. Furthermore, unbiased, objective reporting without a display of personal feeling will eventually help strengthen journalism and readers’ trust across the board. 

Engaging The community

Nicole Correia, 18, Portuguese, Advertising, PR and Media at Middlesex University Dubai

I take a few minutes every morning to skim through the headlines. I later browse the online versions for more in-depth coverage. I reach out to local newspapers for relevant content related to the region, while for international news I turn to online sources and television. 

From inspirational stories about the community heroes to thorough, well-investigated exposés, I enjoy reading stories about the community to keep me updated. As a reader, I would like the UAE media to express themselves more in their stories and reach out to people. Local newspapers have a chance to connect with their local communities and act as a platform, giving residents a voice. By identifying things that affect people, both good and bad, the UAE media can take the facts and other insights unaltered to develop features that touch readers’ hearts and change their lives, paving the way for better community engagement.

Meet the audience’s needs

Alaa Al Mallah, 19, Syrian, Mass Communication at Abu Dhabi University 

My main source for accessing UAE news is digital media, as I can read this anytime and anywhere on my mobile phone. Breaking news alerts via Instagram and Twitter also allow me to keep me up to date with current affairs. While I don’t want to underestimate the value of print media, we simply cannot deny the fact that digital media is now the main source for consuming news for my generation. 

I like to read content that I can relate to and news relevant to my field of study. I always look forward to reading stories about the UAE, its plans for the youth and how it is working to find solutions to many problems and issues that concern people. 

In my opinion, the best way to enhance engagement and stay relevant to the audience is to give each category of the audience what they care about or what they want to know, and this what the media in the UAE need to focus on. 

Relevant content

Aysha Saiha, 19, Indian, Journalism and Mass Communication at Amity University Dubai

With the rise of the internet and other digital media platforms, we see print media declining gradually. When it comes to news, I personally get about 90 per cent of breaking news through the internet. 

However, in a world that is addicted to swiping and scrolling, the touch and feel of print media helps create a much better impression on readers, while building more trust for a particular story. This is particularly true in an age when we find a lot of fake news on the internet created by unidentified sources. 

When it comes to a story in a newspaper, along with the content, the headline and the images should catch my attention. Newspapers being a visual medium, more emphasis should be made on the layouts, fonts and overall visual appeal. 
Everything should be crisp and clear. It always seems like the main section of a newspaper only targets an older segment of readers while their associated magazines and supplements target the younger audience. This can be changed by incorporating interesting columns and articles, keeping students’ interests in mind in the main section of the paper.

Authentic voices and diversity

Divya Ariga, 20, Indian, Advertising PR and Media at Middlesex University Dubai

As a child, I remember waking up to the BBC title introduction being played loudly on our dated Sharp television. I never grasped the gravitas of world news, nor did I intend to listen to the neatly-dressed news presenters. As I grew older, when the time came for me to be updated on global news to keep up with my peers, I started reading newspapers and, like any digital native, I scrolled endlessly through the infinite feeds of information on Twitter. Finally, I started listening to the primly-draped men and women on television. I found myself yearning for a better and more relevant dissection of news. As I commute to my internship, this unused, unproductive time (as I chose to see it) was better utilised listening to podcasts. 

I listened to The Daily from the New York Times, NPR Politics and others. I grew to love this medium. News was framed in a tight-knit narrative for me to easily digest, offering background and a relevant voice to the topic. On TV, however, stories are told from the inside out and not the outside in. Diversity in journalism helps stories receive the platform they deserve, helping society thrive. Authenticity and a writer’s relation to a story are what will matter in our gloomy, or not so gloomy, future.

Multiplatform journalism

Viraj Asher, 20, Indian, Media and Communication at Manipal Academy for Higher Education Dubai 

I consume my news in depth based on its proximity and the people involved. Any news that’s hyperlocal or has to do with something that affects the local community is reading material to me. I always prefer reading such content on print because it is difficult to concentrate on the content while scrolling continuously on a computer screen. When it comes to the ease of reading, nothing can beat the print, particularly if the article is lengthy. However, looking at the popularity of digital media, the future of media now depends on how the new generation of journalists can break down complex stories and are able to communicate to a wider audience using digital tools such as animations, illustrations, VR technology and social media like live videos and online polls. 

Tackle fake news

Amena Muhammad Iqbal Abu Baker, 20, Pakistani, Journalism and Mass Communication at Amity University Dubai

For me, social media, including Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, take centre stage when it comes to news consumption. Nowadays, people are more into social media because it doesn’t consume time or money. Besides it’s more interactive as I get to see people’s opinions about a certain issue on the spot. Human interest stories always grab my attention as they appeal to emotion besides creating an awareness on certain issues. Nowadays, people want a quick summary of the issue at hand so that they don’t need to read lengthy texts to gather the details. Instead they rely on footage or images to understand everything. However, the biggest concern of our time is the exposure to fake news on various media channels, especially social media, which we often consume without even realising that these are fake and are from unreliable sources. This affects those involved in the story as well as who are reading the content. News media should be more vigilant on what they run on their platforms, undertaking efforts to combat the spread of fake news and misinformation.

Visual storytelling

Saakshi Khubani, 19, Indian, Media and Communication at Middlesex University Dubai

I rely on mobile news due to its convenience and turn to print media only for deeper understanding of news. Given the current rapid pace of news consumption, it will not be long until technology becomes the new black for the journalism and media industry. It has now become important for journalists to adapt to various digital platforms in a way where their storytelling can help the masses easily distinguish between fake and real news. I find it difficult to ascertain the reliability of the news I consume digitally. 

I believe that the visual storytelling approach can prove to be one of the most powerful and reliable methods of communication in the digital age. It can support news through strong evidence, making it reliable while generating engagement in a way that ensures people can consider the news relatable.