- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 2, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195161416
- ISBN-13: 978-0195161410
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Media critic and former CNN editor Mindich takes a common belief—"that young people have largely abandoned traditional news"—and thoroughly examines many related, more obscure trends to convincingly argue that most young Americans who are "tuned out" not only threaten their own generation but also "democracy itself." Using a range of research approaches, from first-person interviews to large statistical studies of audience preferences, Mindich explodes a number of myths about why young people have shunned serious news. Foremost among these is the frequent response that younger generations don't read newspapers because they're watching TV news instead (the Internet, he finds, "does not in itself drive news use"). Mindich shows that younger nonreaders are "the least likely to consume TV news," and he is most concerned with the loss of new consumers of print media; while he gives a number of examples of how papers have "dumbed down" the news to attract young audiences, he's acutely aware of how papers struggle between maintaining high standards and sustaining profits. Mindich also presents a devastating analysis of how national television news panders to young viewers with "news-as-entertainment" options. But the book's real virtue is the way Mindich marshals statistics to support his challenge to news organizations "to create a society in which young people feel that reading quality journalism is worthwhile." Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"This is a very important book. Professor Mindich has undertaken to determine the extent of the news illiteracy of an entire generation of American young people, and to speculate with authorities in broadcasting and print as to what can be done about it. This volume is a handbook for the desperately needed attempt to inspire in the young generation a curiosity that generates the news habit. Their lack of knowledge or even interest in our government bodes a critical danger to democracy as they become the nation's voting majority."--Walter Cronkite
"Mindich presents a devastating analysis of how national television news panders to young viewers with 'news-as-entertainment' options. But the book's real virtue is the way Mindich marshals statistics to support his challenge to news organizations 'to create a society in which young people feel that reading quality journalism is worthwhile.'"--Publishers Weekly
Top customer reviews
The eclipse of news by entertainment is one of the leitmotifs of "Tuned Out". Mindich’s global explanation for news-illiteracy might be paraphrased, “It’s the sitcoms, stupid.” In one memorable passage, he notes that the 2003 finale of “American Idol” provoked more passion among young Americans than did the 2000 presidential race. If kids can memorize 10 singing contestants and their hometowns, Mindich reasons, what’s stopping them from knowing who’s who in the presidential primaries? It isn’t a question of ability, but of will and focus. Pointing out how the current media landscape has shifted overwhelmingly toward instant gratification, Mindich argues that adults bear some responsibility for refocusing young people’s priorities. He recommends requiring a civics class for college entrance, for example, or adding basic civics questions to the SAT.
Constructive as these suggestions may be, they won’t do much to win over those young people who cite journalism itself as the reason they don’t follow the news. And it’s not just young people: A 2004 First Amendment Center/ American Journalism Review poll found that only 39 percent of Americans agree that “the news media try to report the news without bias.” Mindich encountered this cynicism about media bias repeatedly in his interviews, but he doesn’t buy it. The book includes an in-depth discussion of how commercial concerns have distorted the journalistic mission, as well as several concrete suggestions for taking back “the airwaves, desktops and news offices” from large corporate interests. Still, Mindich maintains that good journalism “is still practiced every day in the United States and around the world” and that we have no excuse for not seeking it out.
Ultimately, "Tuned Out" is a call for a return to traditional civic engagement and a revivification of the old, locally based party structures and news outlets, which brought the issues to people’s front doors. Young people who believe the future is elsewhere -- for instance, in internet political communities -- may not agree with some of Mindich’s conclusions. Still, Mindich pulls off a balancing act in this book: He manages not to bash young people for their ignorance while still refusing to let them off the hook. And that, perhaps, is the real “best place to start".
Anyone who has ever seen the segment on the "Tonight Show" called "Jaywalking" (where Jay Leno asks younger people on the street things about which they should know) will recognize the utter alarm many of us feel at the lack of knowledge these people being interviewed possess. Could these citizens really be THAT far removed from current events and history? They are. Mindich's book is like "Jaywalking" without the fun.
The author does make some excellent points. He devotes part of a chapter to local news and how appallingly bad most of it is. He's certainly right on that score. He also raises a question in his conclusion regarding civics. He writes, "we demand a civics test of everyone who wants to become a U.S. citizen; it seems fitting to have high school students take a news/civics test, too." This is an equally good point. We test citizens-to-be and then let them loose, in a manner of speaking, never to ask anything more of them once they become citizens.
I'm leery, however, of Mindich's assertion that we are in a "crisis". The lack of young people's interest in the news is growing and is disturbing but it is also an evolution which may or may not be as bad as he warns. Still, I recommend the book
for its acknowledgement of the problems that we, who are tuned in, face with those who are not, as a society.
the news...not so much because of the stories as the way they are reported. Local TV news broadcasts, in
particular, have developed this maddening habit of treating every story as either a joke or a catastrophe.
(Falling under the heading of "joke": baby pictures with a lullaby playing on the audio; stories about weight loss
accompanied by "Baby Elephant Walk" - insulting as well; why do news stories need a soundtrack? Under the
heading of "catastrophe": weather people who whine "where's spring?" if snow falls after March 21.)
In short, I feel that my intelligence is insulted by happy-talk types who treat viewers like they are 4-year-olds,
and I am evidently not alone according to Mr. Mindich.
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If he had, he might have realized that today's youth are *highly* literate (not illiterate).Read more