Recently, 23-year-old sociology and education graduate student Kelsey Russell has been going viral on TikTok — for reading the news.
Kelsey's goal, she says, is to become more aware of current events herself and to inspire other members of Gen Z to do the same.
Kelsey spoke to BuzzFeed about her series and what first got her "into" reading the newspaper. "I really just felt so dumb," she says with a laugh. "I'm in a grad school program and felt like [for] a lot of the things that I was learning, I needed more social, political, and economic context to understand."
"Of course, like, government, media, all of these things — policy, law, like, these big, big, overwhelming structures, like of course they are responsible for part of this. But you're a human being that also can be responsible for your actions," she continues in the video.
A lot of us (and by that, I mean young people in general, but also anyone else with an internet addiction) know that our attention spans are shot; but a lot of people don't want to face the fact that that's a choice.
Kelsey told BuzzFeed that "a journalist [I was speaking to once] was like, 'How would you make reading the newspaper faster, for a Gen Z reader to get through in less time?' And I was like, 'I wouldn't.'"
Kelsey also spoke about meeting her Gen Z audience where they are, and how she originally went about framing of the news, which is fun and easy to engage with.
She tells BuzzFeed that if there's anything in the paper she doesn't understand — the jargon, the words — she takes it upon herself to look it up and learn it in the moment, so she can be educated to speak about it online. She wants to inspire other people to do the same, and make people feel comfortable in the knowledge that they might not already know everything.
In this video about the Washington Post, Kelsey discusses the newspaper's history, especially in regards to how they broke the stories of the Pentagon Papers and of the Watergate scandal, each of which she discusses. "It is so important to think about, like, American culture and how we think about the '70s as being like, this changing time [in that culture]. The newspaper and what they were bringing out is a catalyst for all of that change," Kelsey asserts.
Lots of people in her comment section — and also, Kelsey herself — have brought up media literacy, which is a rather hot topic for Gen Z. "Our generation is — how do I say this," Kelsey tells BuzzFeed. "It's beautiful, but it's also a plague — we're almost plagued by our empathy."
She talks about how many young people often use their feelings, and their claims of being "too overwhelmed" by news that can be jarring, saddening, or disturbing, to "get out" of dealing with current events.