Skimming the news

Two years ago, I wrote about how journalism students at UNC-Chapel Hill got their news. It’s a question that I always ask on the first day of class. In 2013, most mentioned newspapers — in digital form, not in print.

This week, I asked the same question to my three classes. There were still many responses that mentioned newspapers: The New York Times, The News & Observer and The Daily Tar Heel. Again, the focus is on digital, but the DTH remains popular in print, perhaps because it is free and readily available across campus, and has a crossword puzzle.

A few students say they turn to magazines, including Garden & Gun. Others like ESPN.com and National Public Radio. Local TV news and Reddit each got one mention.

But one new name stuck out from two years ago: The Skimm. Out of about 45 students total, two dozen receive this daily newsletter, delivered each morning by email. These Skimm readers said they like its breezy tone and straightforward approach to current events as well as its smart use of links. It’s easy to skim.

The Skimm started three years ago, and its editors say it now has 1.5 million subscribers, a number most newspapers and magazines would envy. Seeing that success, news organizations from BuzzFeed to The Daily Tar Heel have launched email newsletters. So I’ve added newsletter curation as an assignment (PDF) in my Advanced Editing course.

It will be interesting to see how college students get their news two years from now. Will conversational newsletters that make jokes about Vladimir Putin and embed GIFs still be popular, or will something else take their place? I’ll let you know.