5.01.2005

Are We Really Tuned Out?

I'm reading a book right now entitled Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News, and I'm having a lot of thoughts about it.

(So you might want to hide. I'm having thoughts. *grin*)

When I first saw the title, I was really offended. It seemed like a sweeping generalization about my generation (say that three times fast!), and I didn't like the connotation. However, as I've read it, the author has made a lot of really good points. He points to the lack of engagement of my generation in the news or the political machinations of America. He quizzes a number of twentysomethings about Supreme Court justices, their own senators, relevant news articles and more. Most of us fail miserably, and that makes me sad and embarassed.

But then, perhaps I'm contributing to the problem.

I don't get a daily paper. I don't watch any news on television. I don't listen to NPR as much as I should, though I'm getting better.

However, I feel like I do follow the news more than my peers, just in a different medium.

I check cnn.com one to two dozen times a day for headlines and stories.

I look at our regional newspaper online every day.

I read both of our weekly county newspapers every week.

I discuss relevant issues with colleagues, I read Time magazine, and I subscribe to RSS feeds of all varieties, including feeds relevant to my political party of choice, to political movements in DC and in Indiana, and to general news sites.

The author makes the point that folks who get their news online are even less likely to engage in our political structure, or to volunteer in general for the greater good, and if true, that also makes me sad.

When I began at the library, I changed the homepage on the reference desk computer to cnn.com (because we all like their converage). I began routing newspapers to all members of the reference desk staff, not just myself. I make a point of discussing local issues with my colleagues, or asking about stories I haven't heard about. I think it's important, not just as people but as librarians to know and understand what is happening both abroad and at home. We might get a reference question about it. We might need to find an article again that someone is requesting. Or we might just happen upon a conversation with a patron about a news story, thus giving us the opportunity to get to know them better, to weigh in and to sound smart when we do. These are little changes, but I think they are worthy ones.

For a while, I've been mentally beating myself up for not being more involved in more civic activities, or for not becoming more active politically in town. Is this a product of my generation? Maybe. Is it time for us to step up and make a change? Absolutely.

And for the record, I knew both my senators and my rep in DC, I named seven Supreme Court justices, I knew the three countries in the "Axis of Evil" and I damn well knew who John Ashcroft was. ;-)

And I vote.

I'm only halfway through the book...there may be another rant when I'm done. Fair warning. ;-)

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