North-West University: Study explores news consumption habits of NWU’s female students


While female students on all three campuses of the North-West University (NWU) have a keen interest in current news, what and how much news they consume differs according to personal, demographic and sociographic factors.

This is the conclusion of lecturer in Communication Studies Dr Chilombo Banda’s PhD study on news consumption patterns of female students on the Mahikeng, Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark campuses.

For her study, Dr Banda explored the motivations, demographic factors, and extent of news consumption among female students specifically.

Although the practice of gendered news consumption has been interrogated by various scholars in the field of news consumption, she says African media audiences in general – and in particular African female audiences – have been neglected.

The findings from her study revealed that female students on all three NWU campuses do consume news to keep abreast of issues that directly affect their needs, such as educational and economic matters and student politics.

“The study also found that numerous demographic and sociographic factors such as income bracket, language preference and field of study played a significant role in their news consumption patterns, which extends to their consumption on social and/or digital and traditional media.”

Dr Banda says there is a need for further studies into the differences in news consumption patterns between male and female students, as well as longitudinal studies that would include other institutions of higher learning.

This comes from the assumption that males are considered bigger consumers of news than females. “In the Global North much more is known about females than the Global South, and if we can develop a nuanced understanding of news consumption among females, it could add to their empowerment as young women in society. This empowerment will build their confidence and help them to break through the glass ceiling in many ways.

“There is also need to explore news consumption according to the demographic factors of the Global South, particularly from a Southern African perspective,” adds Dr Banda.

She says this is important because the amount of news African audiences consume is different from their counterparts in the Global North, as is the broader media studies discourse around decolonisation.

“In the Global North, younger audiences are more prone to accessing their news through digital means, while in the Global South, consumption is by and large still through traditional media (ie the radio, television and newspapers). The digital divide is still a reality in the Global South, therefore the need for such a study and for the decolonisation of media audiences.”

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