Mary GrigsbyDuring her 2014-2015 Reynolds Fellowship, Mary Grigsby, a professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri, is qualitatively examining young careerists’ changing media behaviors and how their motivations and preferences will influence current and future news products and services.

She presented preliminary findings at the Missouri/Kansas Associated Press Publishers and Editors annual meeting last month in Kansas City (see presentation, above).

Grigsby has interviewed 12 men and 12 women between the ages of 18 and 29 — all from the Columbia, Missouri, area — in search of patterns of media use, which she calls “themes of deeper motivations.” During this early stage of analysis, she’s identified the following six themes: creative, competitive, social, instrumental, escapist and intentional.

The feedback she received from journalists she met in Kansas City has inspired her to expand the number of themes for coding data. Grigsby’s research is a three-stage design that includes one-on-one interviews; Grigsby’s personal observation of the participants at home, work and play; and photographs taken by participants of their personal and professional media use. To date, Grigsby has only completed one participant observation as a test run. She has interviewed all of the participants but she is still accumulating photographic data.

At the AP meeting, Grigsby’s presentation focused on Kimberly, a pseudonym for the only participant who has completed all three stages of Grigsby’s research. One of the important themes in Kimberly’s interview was that she was thoughtful and intentional in her media use.

According to Grigsby, young adults concerned with being intentional expressed the desire to exert control over the amount of time spent using digital media.  Most of them, she says, have consciously changed their behaviors to reduce the time they spend gaming, surfing and downloading music.

One of her preliminary discoveries: the definition of news by “intentionals” and their interest in current events varies greatly, but all intentionals want a go-to source for news that they believe is reliable and easy to use.


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