A new book by a University of Texas journalism professor argues that the current generation--the so-called Millienials--don't give a hoot for news. According to the release for the book, young folks today describe what the mainstream media produces as follows: "garbage, lies, one-sided, propaganda, repetitive and boring." Furthermore, the majority "don't feel that being informed is important."
In the press release for the book, the author laments: “In the future we may not have anybody consuming news. We can’t continue to ignore the problem. The older generation is dying out. Who will be the role model encouraging future generations to be informed?”
An item about the book has kicked off a fairly heated discussion today at the popular media blog JimRomenesko.com. A similar discussion ensued in our own offices when CALIFORNIA contributor, and former newsman, Frank Viviano submitted the Free Speech (that is, opinion) piece that runs in the latest issue. Entitled "The Empty Town Hall," Franks essay begins:
Somewhere, deep in my jaded heart, the America I want to believe in still lives, and it has a very specific image: Freedom of Speech, a Norman Rockwell oil painting commissioned in 1943 by The Saturday Evening Post. My father hung a print of it in our home when I was growing up in the 1950s. Its central figure, a prototype everyman dressed in humble work clothes, has risen to speak at a town hall meeting.
All heads in the packed room are turned toward him, all attention riveted on his words. For me, Rockwell’s idealized town hall scene came to represent essential, inarguable values: the freedom to speak, of course, but even more, the collective engagement implied in its crowded seats and turned heads, the palpable sense of community that made informed opinion and debate meaningful.
Of the countless monuments toppled in the Internet Age, few are more iconic than Rockwell’s version of democracy, which was so tangible that a child could grasp its suggestive power. In less than two decades, the communications revolution has emptied the town hall as Rockwell envisioned it—and upended Tip O’Neill’s celebrated axiom that “all politics is local.”
Viviano goes on to argue that the body politic is not only less well-informed today, but that the lack of civic engagement can be traced to the demise of newspapers--especially regional newspapers, like the ones Viviano himself worked for. But okay, setting aside the self-interested aspect of Frank's argument, we still wondered (and argued) amongst ourselves about its validity. Are people today really less well-informed than generations past? Was the Town Hall in 1943 really filled with impassioned and informed citizens, or was it just what the opening of the story unwittingly suggests--less a toppled monument than a bullshit version of the past?
Your turn. Discuss.