Sociology majors scrutinise media coverage of ‘Snowflakes’

Humanities
The report begins with an executive summary, then outlines a series of sociological concepts. There is a brief interlude on millennials as a ‘moral panic’. Then there are a series of focused analyses, concluding briefly with the inevitable ‘personal statements’. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The report begins with an executive summary, then outlines a series of sociological concepts. There is a brief interlude on millennials as a ‘moral panic’. Then there are a series of focused analyses, concluding briefly with the inevitable ‘personal statements’. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

WIT students who are majoring in sociology are set to release a report Coverage of Snowflakes: An analysis of Irish Newspaper reporting on Millennials

Contemporary news coverage of ‘millennials’ often erases the voices of young people or relegates it to a brief personal story at the bottom of a page of analysis. Implicitly, the journalist gives a balanced view of the issue, perhaps with the help of experts or data.

We are pleased to publish a report entitled Coverage of Snowflakes: An analysis of Irish Newspaper reporting on Millennials based on research undertaken by Sociology Majors at WIT taking the course ‘Irish Society and the Media’. Rather than just studying ongoing social trends and academic debates, this class focused on directly analysing mainstream Irish reportage on ‘Millennials’. This entailed locating, reading and debating media texts in class, supplemented by sociological concepts of media influence.

The study is a group effort; it begins with an executive summary, then outlines a series of sociological concepts. There is a brief interlude on millennials as a ‘moral panic’. Then there are a series of focused analyses, concluding briefly with the inevitable ‘personal statements’.

Over sensitivity of snowflakes?

Some members of the class were appalled by the coverage, because it was sensationalising, over-generalising and decontextualised. It would be easy to dismiss this reaction as the ‘over-sensitivity’ of so-called ‘snow-flakes’. Yet, that would simply be a ‘closed-system’ of thinking – because any objection to the hypothesis is considered a confirmation of it! Not only do many journalists slight Millennials in their coverage, but the accusation of being a ‘snowflake’ stands as a ‘pre-emptive’ criticism

In the early stages of the research we examined economic statistics on young people and emigration, living at home, precarious work and welfare, which were reported by newspapers, yet then omitted from more colourful pieces. As we turned from ‘Millennials’ to ‘snowflakes’, one of the students remarked that the newspaper accounts were frankly laughable and contradictory; millennials were simultaneously herd-like but individualistic and selfish, coddled by their parents but transgressive, personally irresponsible yet victims of circumstances, ultra-connected by social media, yet lonely and prone to anxiety, politically ignorant yet always questioning.

Media bubbles and millenials

Supposedly Millennials were everything and nothing all at once, perhaps reflecting that the category doesn’t really mean anything. Society is not a series of neatly distinct generations, and economic categories like class and social mobility, where people lived in the country and their gender and ethnicity are all more important factors.

Many of the students in this class were not regular readers of Irish newspapers, and received their news via social media, often from international rather than national sources. Perhaps this seems like an ‘echo-chamber’; yet equally, broadsheets written by and for middle-aged and middle-class readers are no less a segmented audience. Breaking through these ‘media bubbles’ is crucial informed public debate.

Tom Boland – Lecturer in Sociology, WIT

The full report will be available online from 25 January 2018

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