Teens vs. Local News
BY ADI RAMAN '23
It spreads through word of mouth. It’s on your TV screens. It’s plastered right on your very own high school newspaper. News is inescapable. Yet, excluding our very own humble newspaper, students are often unaware of local news in the district.
The Spectrum has its own news column concerning broader changes in the district and Breaking in The Spectrum (Bits) with weekly news updates. We’ve covered everything from school plays to town elections, but it can be difficult to care about town news when it serves as an update rather than a life-altering notification.
For instance, town elections occurred earlier this year to choose new members of the Acton Select Board. If a group of students read an article about the elections, they would likely understand it and make their own conclusions; yet, only a fraction of them would do further research on what issues the town currently faces or what the candidates’ policies are. This can be attributed to the simple fact that people tend to only thoroughly research subjects that they already have an interest in. Moreover, the Pew Research Center reports that interest in local news positively correlates to age. At a stage of life when we focus on friends, school, sports, and clubs, it’s not surprising that teenagers have little interest in local politics.
However, teenagers often find themselves learning about national politics. General elections naturally garner nationwide attention due to extensive media coverage and the potential implications should one candidate win over another. Most teenagers knew the candidates’ names in the 2016 and 2020 elections but were not exposed to nearly as much news about their local government.
Regardless, there are exceptions to this so-called rule. A recent one includes the debate over removing the high school’s mascot, the Colonial. Many took passionate stances, raising questions about tangible change. How would AB’s sports uniforms be changed? What would the new mascot be? Disregarding stances, the event illustrated how conspicuous change leads to heavier community interest and involvement. Further, the conflict gained attention from students because it related to the school itself. This key fact allowed the mascot to spark student interest in local news.
It is essential that students understand their local leaders; for example, seminars where the Select Board comes to the high school and explains their role could be one way to interest students. We live in an age where the digital world is growing inversely with our attention spans, so us teenagers often find ourselves using social media for a “quick fix” of entertainment that eventually becomes inconsequential to our livelihoods. It may seem difficult to pay attention to local news when a majority of students plan on leaving the district in pursuit of job opportunities or higher education. However, in a smaller district where the community and the schools are largely intertwined, we students have the potential to work with local leaders and improve our town. National issues matter as well, but we should never focus on them so much that we become farsighted.
Beyond local politics is the simple truth that local news unifies our district. Learning about the achievements of one and the struggles of another produces a tighter-knit community. If students can take that one extra step to become better acquainted with their town, we will be one step closer to making the Acton-Boxborough area something more than a dot on a map.