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Teens unsure of newspapers' fate

By Clay Wilson and Greg Gelpi

(For complete results of a USA Weekend survey of teens and teen readership of newspapers, read more in the USA Weekend in this edition of the News Daily/Daily Herald.)

A USA Weekend survey of teens tells of a promising future for newspapers, but local teens aren't so sure.

Newspapers contain too much about politics and other stories not relevant to teens, they said. When they do read a newspaper, it usually isn't for the news. Comics, entertainment and sports are what they typically read in a newspaper and usually only when they have little choice.

Despite this, the teens said that the newspaper is here to stay.

USA Weekend conducted a survey of 65,000 teens about their newspaper reading habits.

Of those surveyed, only 18 percent said they get most of their news from newspapers, but 79 percent said they will read a newspaper as an adult. About 69 percent of the teens said they read the comics with 19 percent saying that is the first section of the paper that they read.

Tiffany Sewell, 17, of Henry County, said she gets most of her news from the Internet. However, she said the sites from which she gets the information are those of conventional newspapers.

When she looks at hard-copy papers, Sewell said, she is drawn to the sports pages. She said she can't think of anything in particular newspapers could add to make her more likely to read them. However, asked about the relevance of newspapers' content to teenagers' lives, she said, "I guess it's all pretty relevant."

Fifteen-year-old Chase Grizzell, another Henry County student, said he would like to see newspapers throw in more comedy – "something to make you laugh."

Grizzell admitted he "hardly ever reads the newspaper." He said he usually gets his news from television. "I just watch more of it," he said. When he does pick up a paper, he said, it's likely for the sports section.

He wasn't optimistic about the future of newspapers, predicting that the Internet and TV will lead to their demise. He said, though, that newspaper stories can be relevant to teens "if it's an article specifically about our age."

Ashley Martin, 14, said she thinks newspapers are safe from the Internet. "The Internet might not have all the local stuff," she said.

On the other hand, the Henry County student, too, said she doesn't look at newspapers often. When she does, she looks at sports.

Evan Komestakes, 15, is also a sports page fan. He said the advantage that the Internet and TV have over newspapers is that they're "quicker and easier."

Komestakes predicted that these mediums will knock newspapers off the scene, but said that if newspapers could do something to attract him, it would be to feature more sports.

"There are other ways to get the news other than the paper," Aaron Simpkins, 19, of Clayton County, said.

Simpkins said he gets most of his news from television, since he spends so much time watching TV.

When he does read the newspaper, he reads the comics.

"That's pretty much all I read," Simpkins said.

Stockbridge High School student Josh Barthel, 17, said he learns of news through popup adds on the Internet and through his parents who read the newspaper.

"Sometimes it's interesting," Barthel said of the newspaper. "Most of it deals with politics and the stuff that doesn't affect me. I'd be more concerned if I could put my two cents in."

Alex Manos, a Union Grove High School student, agreed that newspapers have too much about politics.

Manos said "ever so often" he finds information relevant to him as a teen in a newspaper. He only reads a newspaper, though, when he finds one in the car while riding with his father.

He also said that he receives news from television and his father, who reads the newspaper.

Morrow's Ronnie Dobbs, 18, echoed their sentiment, saying he is more concerned about the comics in the newspaper than then news in the newspaper.

"I read the funnies everyday," Dobbs said.

He criticized newspapers and media as a whole, saying that they are unreliable.

"I just think that there is so much stupid stuff in there," Dobbs said.