Misconceptions can be a difficult thing to overcome.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles recently addressed the topic while speaking at the Whitley County Cooperative Extension Office.
“A few months ago, the Washington Post’s front page story revealed the results of a national survey that showed 16 million Americans legitimately think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, and white milk comes from white cows. These are grown adults,” Quarles told the audience that was made up largely of local farmers.
Quarles is right that misconceptions can be a hard thing to overcome.
I found it interesting that he then perpetuated another misconception later in his address.
“Millennials, those born between 1980 and the 1990s, they are a different generation. They don’t buy newspapers. They don’t watch the evening news. They get all their information off this,” Quarles said gesturing to his smart phone. “Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat, etc. The food marketers know that.”
Part of the misconception here is that news just magically comes from your smart phone or social media, but where do the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the “Internet” get news from?
Could it be those brown cows producing chocolate milk? Maybe it’s magic Internet news ferries that create it with special digital pixie dust? Perhaps a supercomputer with an advanced artificial intelligence writes it.
The source behind those news stories that people think just “come from the Internet” might surprise them. Let me illustrate my point.
When I got back to the office after Commissioner Quarles address, I turned on my Facebook page seeking to answer the question of where my Facebook news comes from.
I started scrolling through looking for the first 25 actual news stories about real legitimate news. I ignored stuff like space aliens have a base on the moon, anything about one of the Kardashians, or any stories about Donald Trump’s hair secretly being an alien attached to his head controlling his every action. (OK. I made up that last example, but you get the idea.)
What I found – besides the fact that some of my Facebook friends post a lot of silly stuff – was a little surprising but not shocking? Most of these stories came from traditional news sources, such as television, newspaper or radio.
About one third of the stories, eight of them, did come from Internet-based news websites, such as projectrepublic.com, nationofblue.com, or rawstory.com. One of those stories was based on a Vanity Fair report. Most of these stories were about national news. Many had an obvious partisan slant towards the left or right.
Seven of the stories came from newspapers, such as the News Journal, the Times Tribune, the Lexington Herald Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Six of the stories came from television stations, mostly WYMT and WKYT.
Two of the stories came from NPR (National Public Radio) and one came from PBS.
Of course, most of these stories were about national and state issues.
What about “local news” you see on Facebook or news that is brought to you by certain smartphone Apps? Where do those stories come from? Are those magical brown cows with the chocolate milk writing “local news” too?
A couple of weeks ago, I had seen friends share posts about “local news” stories on Facebook from an App named “News Break.”
Being in the news business, it caught my attention since I had seen some legitimate stories from our area on there. I was curious where they where getting their information so I downloaded the free App on my smartphone.
Shortly after conducting my Facebook experiment, I undertook a non-scientific survey by firing up the App, putting it under the category of “local news” and seeing what the sources of the first 25 stories were. My location was set on Corbin if anyone is interested. All of the stories came from newspapers.
The News Journal produced 14 of the stories, and three each came from the Corbin Times Tribune, the London Sentinel Echo and the Middlesboro Daily News. The Knoxville News Sentinel and the Glasgow Daily Times each accounted for one story each.
In other words while millennials may believe they aren’t getting most of their news from traditional, “old peoples” news sources, such as newspapers and the evening newscast, they really are, and so are you. Most people just don’t realize it.
In closing, let me be clear about two things. In case someone hasn’t figured this out yet, brown cows don’t produce chocolate milk and they don’t write Internet news stories either. Journalists do that and the vast majority of them still work for newspapers and television stations.