Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lost Generation Response

I do not think voter turnout in the 2008 election had much to do with local newspaper readership. Most voters were probably most interested in the presidential race and used other media to follow it. I think the unpopularity of President Bush and the historic nature of the election were the two main factors that increased young voter turnout.

With that said, the increased young voter turnout is at odds with Parker's comment that the younger generation doesn't understand or appreciate the free society-free press connection. I think today's young people are connected to civic life, but in new ways. Young people are building their own communities, many on the Internet, around shared interests, if not geographic location. So many young people may be engaged in civic life based on broader causes rather than their smaller communities.

But people still use media to stay connected to civic life. For many young people, that media is television, the Internet, and magazines. But journalism is not just media. Journalism is supposed to give people unbiased information so they can make up their own minds. Journalism is essential for a free society because it allows people to think freely.

And journalists have an important role in helping young people stay connected to civic life. I think this role is to seek out and report more stories that directly involve young people. In general, people like to see, hear, and read about others like themselves. So the best way to get young people to read newspapers is to write about young people in newspapers. I know I liked to read the page of my local Sunday newspaper that was devoted to students when I was in high school, and I will look through the marriage announcements now that some of my classmates have gotten married. At any rate, the most valuable news is news that affects you and news that involves you. Young people will not read the newspaper if they think the news in it has nothing to do with them, but they will find other ways to stay connected to civic life.

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