Friday, December 04, 2009

Sign of the Times. (And Newsweek. And Playboy. And...)

First off, it's good to see more and more people outing the sleazeballs in the SHAMsphere, as Mitch Lipka does here with our old friend, Kevin Trudeau. Perhaps if this continues, it will start to "take," and not everything these jokers churn out will become an instant goldmine (for them).


I've whined before about the obstacles facing those of us who seek gainful employment in academia despite the lack of a "terminal degree." Gainful employment is defined as something above "would you like fries with that?" wages. I'm not being entirely jocular in saying that. At many colleges, an adjunct-level lecturer earns maybe $3000-$4000 per course taught, per semester. You can adjunct at two or thr
ee different colleges, as many will, and take home less than $20,000 a year for your efforts. But what's just as depressing as the money lately... Well, let me back up.

Every few months I scan the sites that advertise open faculty positions in journalism. Just to see what's out there. I guess I keep thinking
hoping? dreaming? fantasizing?that one of these days I'm going to stumble on a niche like I had at Indiana University for three charmed years in the late 1990s. There, as a visiting professor in magazine journalism, I was paid full faculty wages for visiting campus two, maybe three days a week. I was also the happiest I've ever been, professionally; I was given free rein in the classroom to teach basically whatever I wanted to teach about writing, however I wanted to teach it, and the modest time commitment left me plenty of hours to do writing of my own in between. I'd gotten that job only because I "knew someone," though that didn't occur to me at the time. It was my first foray into college-level employment and I figured, "Hell, if they're paying me that kind of money in Indiana for part-time work, I bet the schools on either coast will pay me well into six figures." I was right, too. I just didn't realize where the decimal point would go.

Which brings us back to that damn terminal degree. The fact
that I offer nothing beyond a lowly BAseen in academic circles as the rough equivalent of a GEDis well-known by now to the SHAMblog faithful, or to anyone who's clicked on my resume (or "CV" in academic parlance. Incidentally, that's one of the ways academics can tell whether you're really "one of them," right off the bat: If you call it a resume, you're not). Apparently, except for the few schools that maintain "professional-in-residence" tracksand even more of those are demanding at least an MAnone of my real-world experience counts: not my 25 years of writing for the creme-de-la-creme in American media, not my books, not my movie deals*, not my stints on the other side of the desk as an editorial higher-up at The American Legion Magazine and Men's Health Books. Not even my three years at IU, where students consistently rated me among the top profs in the program and where, my dean told me, I once received a few votes from my faculty colleagues for Teacher of the Year. Nope. None of it matters.

As bad as all that is, what bothers me even more of late is that I see myself being increasingly marginalized in terms of the nature of my expertise. So many of the jobs these days
almost all of them on this site, which I check every few weeksseek expertise in "digital media" or "multimedia journalism" or "convergence journalism" or "interactive journalism," which I'm not even sure exists, except as a handy oxymoron. More on this in a moment.

I could spend hundreds if not thousands of words making the connection that I'
m about to make, but I'm pressed for time today so I'm simply going to stipulate it: The core problem here is that kids don't read. If they do read, it's online. But mostly they just don't read, period. Oh, they might tell you they read, but chances are what they call "reading" is really Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, checking out the latest on TMZ, etcthe interactive stuff where they're not merely consuming someone else's thoughts but constantly adding their own two cents as well. Or they'll read books that maintain ginormous online forums where readers are stopping every few pages to communicate with fellow readers. (Harry Potter and all those silly vampire novels come to mind.) Thus, to them, "reading" is just another form of social networking. Teens in particular have neither the patience nor interest to shut off the iPod/iPhone, put the computer on "sleep," then sit there and devote hours to digesting someone else's ideas...and they're too narcissistic to be emotionally equipped to do so without having the right to tell everybody what they think about it whenever the mood strikes them. Everything today has to have this interactive component...has to be participatory in some way. (How do you think Guitar Hero got to be the cultural bellwether it is?) If they have the choice, today's young adults would no more go to an old-style lecturewhere you just sit quietly and take in what somebody else thinksthan spay or neuter themselves, sans painkillers.

The world of print may not be dead, but much of it is on life support, and that includes all of the iconic brands in my headline. The New York Times is barely solvent. Playboy, like its founder, struggles to stay upright. The newsweeklies have been limping along for years. All this, surely in large part, because fewer and fewer people are willing to just sit down, shut up and read.**

It's like blogging. The true test of a blog is whether people would continue to read it if they couldn't comment. Look, I love our contributors, and I've made that clear many times; I think the discussion unfolds on about as high a plane as you're apt to find on any mainstream blog, yet without being stuffy or offputting. That's quite a balancing act, and it's no mean feat
and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. The whole phenomenon is contributor-driven. That said, I have no illusions about the fact that readership of SHAMblog would drop by half (conservatively) if tomorrow I implemented a "no comments" policy. Everyone wants in. Everyone also wants to see what everyone else is thinking and how everyone else is reacting as the discussion evolves. People want to see where the thread goes. In today's world, people also want that sense of community, and sometimes (ironically) cyberspace is the only place they can find it, or feel comfortable with it. I'm not saying that's such a bad thing in and of itself. Selfishly, as the proprietor of this blog, I'm grateful for it.

It's just that this whole idea of universal access to media is a bad omen for journalism, which
as I've also said beforeisn't something anyone can do on a whim. It requires formal training and a certain amount of discretion and responsibility. It has rules and procedures and ethical standards. (To make a very, very small point: Do you have any idea how much of the material posted online is libelous, by traditional definitions? If it weren't for the Supreme Court decision that generally protects a blogger like me from the indiscretions of the people who post/comment, the medium would either be awash in lawsuits or would be shut down overnight.) As mentioned before, I'm reading Markos Moulitsas' book, and very early on it becomes clear that the Daily Kos founder confuses journalism and reporting with activism and spin. The thousands of political bloggers now plying their trade with varying degrees of success are not journalists. What they do is really the antithesis of journalism.*** (Kos is also big on the word gatekeepers, which he likes to use in the same approximate way that Republicans use the word socialism. Yes, editors at networks and major publications are gatekeepers. So are medical licensing boards. Would we really want to do away with them?) Kos and others popularize a view of journalism that, in my view, is counterproductive, even dangerous. This idea that he keeps celebrating throughout his bookthat the blogosphere has democratized media, giving everyone a voicemay be another one of those concepts, like self-esteem, that sounds great but has any number of serious side effects that lay just beneath the surface.

* There were two such deals, but only one film actually got made.
** Playboy may be a special case. Many argue that the magazine, which has suffered such serious readership attrition in recent decades, is being undone by the cheap availability of online porn: No one needs to go out and buy a magazine anymore to see naked women. If you're in college, as a fair chunk of Playboy's readers historically have been, you can see 'em pretty much anytime you want. But I don't think it's quite that simple. There was a time when people actually did "read Playboy for the articles," articles that were brilliant and engaging, and written by some of the top names in American journalism and letters. That time is no more. Not because Playboy stopped publishing them. More because people stopped caring.
*** And for the record, no, SHAMblog is not journalism, either. Not for the most part. And since I usually spend no time making distinctions between that "most part" and the other parts, I don't think it's fair to hold the entire blog up as a beacon of journalism.


Elizabeth said...

I totally sympathize, Steve, with your plight here (maybe you should just get that freaking degree, as much as it makes your teeth grind, given its real pointlessness). There are certain areas where the level of skills and experience evident in one's work should be THE qualification for the roundly recognized mastership and ability to teach others.* I too think that journalism is one of them.

But aren't you contradicting yourself somewhat in this post, complaining about the (pointless) requirement for a graduate degree in journalism, while at the same time bemoaning the undesirable democratization of the profession, which has resulted in its lowered standards of performance?

The most common way to keep the professional standards high (or at all) is to require advanced training, documented by appropriate degrees. It's not fool-proof, to be sure, but it works relatively well in most professions. You need that M.D., after all, to practice medicine, no matter how skilled a healer you may be (or think you are).

*A friend recently told me that her husband, an excellent chef with stellar reviews for his long years of work and teaching experience at the best culinary schools in the US and Europe, has to go back to school to get his Ph.D.(!) in hospitality to find a job he likes (or any job, actually, as of now).

Cosmic Connie said...

Quick comment re Kevin True-dough: Great minds think alike... I've been blogging till I'm blue in the face about True-dough and am just now putting the finishing touches on yet another post about him. His current big scheme is worse than stupid, but it's not nearly as stupid as the people who buy into it.

Elizabeth said...

Completely off-topic, but related to your post on juvenile crime -- this case is simply horrific. I don't know what kind of punishment is appropriate for this young man, but I am certain he should not be walking the streets as a free person any time soon, if ever.

Chad Hogg said...

I also found this humorously contradictory: "journalism ... requires formal training" would, to me, indicate that you believe experience is valuable but no substitute for academic work, which is exactly the attitude that you hate in academia.

An anecdote that does not really provide useful information but does prove your point about everyone wanting to interact, even if they have nothing meaningful to add: At 27 I still like to think of myself as part of the younger generation. I have never purchased a copy of The Times, Playboy, or any other glossy periodical. The only journalism I read is the local daily newspaper and Peter King and Gregg Easterbrook on football. But this does not mean that I do not find value in reading; just that I have little interest in short-form fiction or non-fiction. Rather, I have been working my way through the Modern Library's editors' list of top 100 novels for the last two years.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
Mike Zimmerman here -- we've met several times. I'm the guy who occasionally shows up for lunchtime batting practice on Fridays at Jasper or Emmaus Parks. I read your blog regularly, and while I've never spoken to you about it or commented here, this subject is near and dear to my heart as well, as we're both magazine writers. Everything you write about here is 100 percent true and scares the crap out of me because as time goes on and the market for magazines and newspapers constricts, guys like us will have fewer places to ply our trade. And obviously we can't get into teaching because practical experience counts for nothing in academia. (As a guest speaker, I once scared the hell out of a college writing class because I spent three hours telling them what being in magazines and books is REALLY like). Financially, this was my worst year as a freelance writer. Should we expect things to improve? I don't know. What I do know is that when pitching to editors (for work, not batting practice), my ideas have to be even more irresitible than the dozens of other pitches coming in because of disappearing markets and declining editorial page counts. Idea development becomes a deeper time suck and as you know, you don't get paid for developing ideas. So writing in itself becomes a volume business just so you can pay the mortgage. Meanwhile, you watch magazines you like disappear and people you respect losing their jobs while some 29-year-old lives-with-his-parents moron on Twitter gets a CBS sitcom and a HarperCollins book deal because he wrote down all the "S**t My Dad Says." (though it is hilarious, but still). Maybe all those kids who have stopped reading are on to something. This will sound like a joke, but I seriously wonder if experience and skill are overrated. Not always, of course. But often enough to make you wonder. Keep up the good work, Steve. Catch you at the park when the weather gets warm.

Frances said...

So many of the jobs these days—almost all of them on this site, which I check every few weeks— seek expertise in "digital media" or "multimedia journalism" or "convergence journalism" or "interactive journalism...

Hey, even though you don't consider this blog "journalism", isn't it still considered experience in digital and interactive media? It's a blog, for god's sake. You don't get much more digital and interactive than that. It's these job decision makers who are calcified and imagination-free, who won't adapt.

And remember, if any job decision-maker is telling you you're not a fit, that could mean literally ANYTHING. It could mean the boss likes to ride Segways and you don't, or the HR director was a member of the same frat/sorority as one particular job candidate.

I even wonder if "experience in digital media" is code for "older than 40". If it's just the nicest, newest, most plausible way to age-discriminate. Is this a common theme older job seekers keep hearing? If so, I rest my case, and these buzzwords are a code.

There is NO problem with humans adapting to circumstances. There is a huge problem with people in a position to hire being blind and closed-minded.

Steve Salerno said...

Chadd: I can see where you'd reach that conclusion (re the self-contradictory nature of the post). And I could bombard you with all sorts of esoteric rebuttals that you'd probably regard as parsed language. But the bottom line is that it would be one thing if these people (academics) had credentials in teaching, which they don't, for the most part; they have credentials in the subject area they teach. And I would argue that those credentials leave them--not me--unprepared to teach. In fact, I was told by students (I dare say, almost every journalism or writing major, every semester) that my course was far more instructive than those taught by academics, simply because I'd done it and knew what it took. I had the real-world track record that helped me separate theory from practice. (You cannot even begin to imagine how many things academically trained professors teach writing students that are flat-out wrong, and cannot be applied in the real world.) I truly believe that it's the academics--the PhDs--who lack the credentials to teach college-level classes in journalism (and other crafts). Those should be taught by me, and people like me.

Now how is that analogous to what I'm saying about blogging?

Steve Salerno said...

Mike Z: Hey, what a nice surprise to hear from you.

When you talk about 2009 being a bad year, believe me, I feel your pain. And I feel it as a 59-year-old who shouldn't still be doing this crap, battling young turks like you for the dwindling amount of freelance available. I lost most of my contract work early this year, and it was only my good fortune in landing a few one-and-done PR gigs and a fat assignment or two from Playboy that allowed me to keep my head (barely) above water. Yeah, I did my share of work for the Journal and what-not, which is nice visibility...but visibility don't feed the bulldog, as they say.

Though we're still almost a month out from Christmas, I'm ready to put a tombstone on this year and hope for a better 2010.

Martha said...

I feel your pain. I was told by one of my publishers a couple of months ago that good writing is no longer essential. (And I don't think she was lamenting, she was informing.) At the same time I was editing a non-manuscript by a very-full-of-himself non-author (I'm pretty sure he doesn't even read) who said about my suggested changes, "I'll take them under consideration."

I thought to myself, thinks I: "Those two deserve each other." So I introduced the two of them. More like a perverse social experiment. Upshot: She offered him a publishing contract -- at an advance 20% more than any advance I got from her.

Anonymous said...

Steve, Mike, Martha, I think all of us out in the world of writing and editing (especially freelancing) feel your pain, unless your last name is Rowling or King or Brown or the like. Your points are very well made, and Martha, your story is just priceless. And kudos to Frances for calling a code a code. Aaarrrgghhh.

LizaJane said...

I'm with Elizabeth, as usual. Just get the degree. There are plenty of reputable or semi-reputable places that will take your extensive professional experience (both writing and teaching) and turn it into credits. That could mean you might only need to write a thesis of some sort to get the degree. And since you'd be writing anyway... why not?

LizaJane said...

Regarding journalism...

Before I had my kids I was a full-time daily news writer for a medical-information web site (the big one). Every morning at 9 am I received my assignment, which was due at 4pm and published immediately after editing by an MD, a managing editor, and a copy editor.

I'd read the peer-reviewed journal article (or, in rare cases, just the press release) about the researchers' findings, then contact the researcher(s) directly. I interviewed them, then other experts in the same field for additional viewpoints.

I specialized in the hard science and preclinical trials, and that included some "controversial" topics such as cloning, vaccines, angiogenesis, and gene therapy. Basically, all the really cool stuff.

For the first year I wrote solely for professionals -- doctors, researchers, and other scientists. It was easy. I reported, they read. Smooth sailing. Then, the web site was bought by a bigger enterprise and I had to write two versions of each article -- the one for pros, and another one for laymen. Well, it NEVER failed: any time the topic was anything beyond hangnails or acne, I'd receive the same darn email, albeit from MANY, MANY different people --

"How could you think that? Your research proves nothing. You're an (expletive). You should be ashamed. I will never read your web site again." etc.

Within a few weeks it was clear that people in the general population did NOT understand what journalism was -- not at all. They had absolutely NO idea that there was a difference between a straight news article ("reporting") and an opinion piece. I was dumbfounded. And how was I supposed to explain this complex science when the readers clearly didn't know HOW to read? Never mind the content, they didn't understand the format.

So, I (and several of my co-workers in the same boat) came up with a stock "response" explaining that I was not the researcher, just the reporter, and that I'd written the article as part of my JOB, because it was assigned to me, and not for fun or to prove a point. What they'd read was not an editorial of any kind, but an explanation of the findings of a particular set of experiments, as stated and published by the researchers involved, along with THEIR and their colleagues' interpretation of those findings. My personal opinion was private and I had not provided it, so get off my back, you freaking moron! Of course I was nicer about it, but only barely.

It was just monumentally frustrating. And it only got worse when the two parts of the company split, and I no longer had the relief of writing for professionals.

LizaJane said...

I think part of the reason people don't sit and read as much anymore is that we are, in general, more socially isolated, so we opt to spend our free time trying to "connect" with others. Book clubs are very popular. People read books, then talk, together, about them.

You can say it's just a part of the overall dumbing down of the society, but I think, for at least a portion of the population, it's a little more complex.

Steve Salerno said...

LZJ: I think you make a colossally important point. For whatever reason, many (if not most) people today think that everything is up for discussion--that everything resolves to opinion. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it is. So, for argument's sake, if you happen to write a piece in which you make reference to the earth being round, and a round earth is not a good fit with someone's outlook on life, you're going to get the sorts of angry feedback you described.

I grant you that right here on this blog, I have adopted and encouraged a core ethic along the lines of, "Question the 'givens'." But I'm talking more in the realm of policy and practice. Although yes, one could strike a highly epistemological/philosophical pose, bringing up that old tree in the forest and using it as an example of the limitations of our mortal knowledge, the fact remains that there is a well-considered consensus on most core facts of life. As in the case of Amanda Knox, the verdict is in.

I think this all has to do--again--with the notions of "personal empowerment" that we massively oversold in recent decades, such that people now think it's all up to them to decide the nature of their individual reality. And if in their world-view pigs really can fly, so be it. I know that at least some of the folks who are nodding along with me to this point of this comment are going to stop nodding now, but this mentality is in fact the whole basis of alternative medicine, especially the New Age division: millions of people deciding, against all established evidence, that the rudiments of science, as evolved over the centuries, do not apply to them.

In short, laypeople today no longer feel like laypeople; they feel fully entitled to reject the orthodoxies that have built up over thousands of years of human development. Think what would happen if literally everyone embraced that model to the fullest. You'd have wholesale anarchy. You could not run a civilization.

Elizabeth said...

get off my back, you freaking moron!

LizaJane, as much as it pains me (and it does, believe it or not), I think that sometimes this is the appropriate response. Usually better left unsaid, but still.

NormDPlume said...

The first and most important rule for any organization: professional, social, religious... is to exclude non-members. When you start or achieve something, you want to set up a barrier to entry to keep others out. Why do you think the first commandment is the first commandment?

Thus, university faculty - especially the tenured university professors exclude non PhD adjunct professors ("they are just a cost-cutting measure which lowers standards" they sniff). And "journalists" exclude the lowly bloggers; doxtors look down on lowly Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners (even though they do the same work).

So, which side of the barrier do you want to be on? The let- non-PhDs-in-to-the-faculty side or the bloggers-aren't-real-journalists side?

I guess that depends if you are playing offense or defense.

Anonymous said...

'So, which side of the barrier do you want to be on?'

I think Steve wants to play both sides of the barrier. He lauds the orthodoxies when it suits him but then bemoans the fact that when the work dries up the orthodox won't admit him to their tenured, well-pensioned circle.
A bit like Tiger Woods, who wants the security of marriage and the squeaky clean image that fuels his mega-pay but also wants to alley-cat around with any naive waitress who is bedazzled by his BS.

Why oh why can't we have it all?

RevRon's Rants said...

"In short, laypeople today no longer feel like laypeople; they feel fully entitled to reject the orthodoxies that have built up over thousands of years of human development."

Some in the alternative medicine community - particularly regarding Chinese acupuncture and herbal medicine - would offer this very argument to refute the rejection of their procedures. "After all," they would say, "how appropriate is it to reject centuries of testimony, simply because the data is labeled 'anecdotal' according to the guidelines of a scientific method that is still literally in its infancy? And are the Western scientists not actually the 'laymen' where Eastern medicine is concerned?" Thesis and antithesis brandish identical weapons, neither willing to acknowledge the possibility - much less the viability - of synthesis.

Steve Salerno said...

Rev: You and I have been down this road before. While I grant you that your observation/analogy has a certain surface appeal, I reject the argument that the several-thousand-year "track record" of ayurveda and such is in any way parallel to the track record of more traditional medicine. The mere fact of being in use for several millennia (sp?) does not constitute proof of validity or a case for acceptance; if that were the case, then many of my mother's ancient Italian superstitions (e.g. "If you try on a bride's wedding dress before she herself wears it, you must carry a chair around the block to ward off evil spirits") would be a routine and accepted part of life. You'd see women in wedding gowns carrying chairs around the block all over the place.

Traditional medicine has established a scientific momentum that is built on a logical approach to disease, the aggregation of meaningful evidence, and a fairly good grasp of the reproducible results of its methods. That's a whole lot different from "we've been doing it for 1000 years now..."

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, had the "scientific method" been rigidly followed - even by the scientific community - aspirin would have been taken off the shelves decades ago. It is only recently that there has been anything beyond "anecdotal" evidence as to its psychophysiological function and efficacy. Yet it remained available simply because it worked in specific applications.

I'm not one of those who claim that acupuncture or herbal medicine offer the cure for everything, but there have been extensive cases where these treatments have been effective (yes, for thousands of years). My feeling is that if the medical/pharmacological community devoted as much effort to ascertain *why* alternative treatments work in some instances as they devote toward debunking treatments' efficacy, they might actually find some additional useful tools.

The standard dismissal of acupuncture, for example, is that it relies solely upon the placebo effect, yet veterinary acupuncture has produced significant relief to many animals so treated. As far as I know, animals do not generally respond to placebos.

I would like very much to see alternative therapies studied according to the criteria of the scientific method. I do believe, however, that when something actually provides relief, the focus should be upon understanding the process, rather than dismissing it because its function isn't quantifiable using standard methodology.

In the same way Carl Sagan suggested that we look past our "carbon bias" in order to gain a fuller understanding of the life process, perhaps we need to at least consider that there might be limitations to our perspective where the physiological processes of that life are concerned.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I agree that blogging isn't journalism. It's more like an endless stream of op-ed pieces (when the posts are good) or letters to the editor (when they aren't), without, of course, an editor to filter them. I love blogging, which gives us all the opportunity to speak our minds, or even attempt to create a public service. (I'm thinking especially here of the many wonderful how-to-cook, how-to-knit, how-to-garden, and etc. blogs that I'm familiar with.) But journalism? No way.

littleplanet said...

I cringe every time I hear that comment: Kids don't read.
Working in North America's 3rd largest library has turned me into a kid in a candy factory. I just kinda shrug about the 40 books on the go simultaneously. A slice of literary chaos.

Found myself wondering - would I hang around blogs if I couldn't slide in a comment?
Well - the quality of the writing has to grab my attention in the first place.
The ability to engage intelligent writers certainly appeals.
Especially since I don't facebook, tweet, youtoob, "text" or play with any gadget whatsoever that does not have a full typewriter keypad.
(Ha. Even this -box- I'm typing in now is slightly annoying. But I can live with it.)

Subsequent cringes come from the gloomy predictions found herein that print as we have known it is slowly sliding out the back door (and replaced by bits and bytes requiring the attention span of a scorched cat.) hum.

Occasionally I'll yap a bit with students in my library...about that most holy and intimate pastime whose byproducts include conversing with authors.
The conversation starts out one-way: sort of like remembrance of dinners with uncle Harry. Rapt attention, beguiled by stories, language wafting like a Miles Davis solo, a Rembrandt of colored pastiche.....
A physical book - a great magazined article to peruse in the crapper (I NEVER go in there without excellent reading material. Are you nuts?? I need....diversion, distraction, absorption, guidance, soothing and gentrific synapse massage....anything to assuage the, um, biological realities of least in there.)

But geeze. That's why authors were always heroes to me in the first place. Being a lazy so and so who refused to write his way out of a paper bag, I could adore one who had the work ethic to research, write and edit 650 pages.

Do kids no longer have that thirst and hunger? - to just revel and roll around in...written pigs in the proverbial?

I get the feeling these days, that many will condescend to such activity if it adds a few numbers to the grade point average. "Futures".....invest a small number of brain cells into the stock-optioned knowledge base that mayhap pays off come jobsearch time -
otherwise they're not interested.

Or just read the damned thing for its own sake. Joy and sacrifice.

Steve Salerno said...

LP: It's not that they don't read. It's that their reading, I would argue, falls into one or more of three categories: 1, they read under duress ("All right, class, I'll expect you to have completed The Red Badge of Courage by Tuesday") 2, they read as just another form of social interaction (a la the myriad chat rooms that have sprung up around the vampire and sword-and-sorcery books), and/or 3, they read strictly for reasons of pragmatics: to learn how to do something immediately relevant to their self-loving lives (e.g. how to configure the latest iPhone app for their convenience).

I can tell you that kids don't read newspapers; that is simply gone. Check out the demographics of the average paper (but you really don't have to go that deep; just look at the ads and you can tell who they think they're marketing to, if anyone. My local paper consists of ads exclusively for MiracleEar and pre-paid funerals. I exaggerate, but not much). Whatever generally meager info kids/teens have about the world they gain osmotically or perhaps by reading a banner or clicking a link that for some reason piqued their curiosity ("Russia invades Sacramento! Schwarzenegger pissed!") on a page they visited primarily to learn the latest about Paris (Hilton, not the city) or the Jonas Bros.

littleplanet said...

Wow, Steve.
I believe ya but I don't wanna.
That's a sad pathetic sorry excuse for literary activity, ad nausious.
Jack London would boogie in his grave, rest his socialist soul.
I mean, a dude who self-taught himself onto the bestseller list - that's the American way, right?

But tell me...upon inspection, I'm led to believe that the nation is graduating more diplomas than angels dancing on pinheads. All those grads didn't get their parchment by, um...reading?

Lord. That one small learned activity while young and innocent is what saved my bacon back there in that big college in the sky.
How do they get through it now?
Are they not nagged, yelled and screamed at from baby Einstein pre-pre-preschool all the way up to senior prom.....about absorbing alphabetically gymnastic literary olympic gold medals?

So sad.
I grab a snack of info in a mag, a rag, online...a poster, flyer, pamphlet, gazette - or the back of a bazooka joe wrapper.......
then go find the writer who dives into the deep and waxes for a few hundred pages on the subject.
(if I'm so moved to want to explore a little more)
.......maybe that's the problem right there. Not knowing better than that you can't start and stop with Foxx, doesn't fit into a video clip, a sound bite, a 500-word article.

That's like Beethoven's Ninth reduced down to a Iphone ring tone.