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Dumbing Down Of Media For Our Youth
by Francesca Biller-Safran
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Award-winning Investigative Journalist and Columnist with experience reporting breaking news, longer features and op-eds about race, politics, business, socioeconomics, arts and culture, ethics and parenting issues for newspapers, magazines, radio and websites. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow Award, two Society of Professional First Place Journalism Mark of Excellence Awards and two Golden Mike Awards for Excellence in Hard News and Best Series Reporting.

Never mind that home foreclosures are at an all-time high, that $60 Billion has been spent thus far on the Iraq war or that 3,900 American soldiers and nearly 90,000 Iraq civilians have died.

Never mind that many U.S. families cannot afford healthcare, that less than 50% of some state’s high school students don't graduate, or that methamphetamine is on the rise for teens.

What modern media has decided is valuable for young people is what rock star of-the-moment is re-entering rehab.

What is important is to dumb down our youth as much as possible with endless hours spent on You Tube, fattening up their bodies with fast food and brainless activity, and leaving no space at all for an entire generation undernourished on MySpace.

At least we stood a chance.

At least I can remember watching the evening news about The Vietnam War with my father, as he explained to me what the footage might mean, and why I should care.

At least I wasn’t spoon-fed on MTV, glued with nimble fingers as I text-messaged my own inadequacies, left to wander aimlessly in a cloud of apathy while I was tuned out on my IPOD.

At least I had conversations at the dinner table and I was given the my own space and time to ask questions, and my parents took the time to answer.

At least I could tell the difference between tabloid media and actual news.

At least I even gave a damn.

At least people knew that I would give a damn.

Never mind hearing about what a political candidate has to say about pressing issues such as the war, healthcare or a failing economy-- that would make for not only boring television, but prove unprofitable-- the greatest modern sin now known to man.

Even the news geared toward my generation insults my intelligence, trying to convince me that Presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s wife actually hates America, or that the minutia of candidate John McCain’s medical record’s are more important than his stance on the economy. By the way, where does he stand? No one will tell me.

If the large lens of modern media is clear, it has made a firm announcement that what is eminent is the story with the most trash, and grossly repeated until one becomes desensitized into oblivion, eventually succumbing to taking it for reality.

As to whether the story has relevance, validity or questionable fall-out, these concerns no longer have a claim. The journalistic imperative has now become how much air time a story can be played out, whether the play has dangerous implications or not.

What matters is what is eye-catching and hapless, leaving young minds less of a chance to decide what they might really think of anything substantive, let alone what they want to fight for, vote for, and ultimately even know what they stand for.

Art Buchwald once said, “Television has a real problem. They have no page two. Consequently every big story gets the same play and comes across to the viewer as a really big, scary one.”

A long time ago when the evening news was taken seriously and the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite spoke, we listened and largely believed they broadcasted with at least some integrity and legitimacy.

There were few blurred lines as to what might be fiction or real, unless you were a strict believer that all media is propaganda, a bitter pill fathomable to swallow today.

Television news and newspapers took pride in responsible reporting and discerning as to what mattered enough for the public’s consumption and what was simply beneath us.

Reporters actually had a love affair with attempting to seek the truth more than just the bottom line. Politically incorrect as it may seem today, there were judgments made as to what mattered enough to be aired with the public’s intellectualism and ability to process epochal ideas taken into account.

These standards procured journalism as one of the greatest tools and allies of our democratic society, a watchdog on the government and a looking glass on what we deemed as valuable discourse, in that we could easily separate valid news from tabloid trash.

There was no confusion as to whether a story about the President Richard Nixon’s resignation speech or Elizabeth Taylor’s latest marriage was more important. Or for that matter, whether a teen’s video on YouTube should be revered as highly as an embedded journalist covering a war.

There were clear lines. When watching the news, we listened and reflected-- having faith we would not be bombarded with the trivial or inconsequential to our lives.

There is no one faction to blame and yet we are all to blame. If we have stood by and let an entire generation be groomed on MTV and My Space, we have let a large part of our culture go by the wayside and have allowed ignorance a permanently woven texture into mainstream culture, and worse, lauded.

If you happen to be a young teen, you can’t possibly remember when there were distinct lines between real news coverage, cable news and Internet popularity contests with incoherent blogs and pseudo-news sites.

And you may not even be aware there is a full-scale war going on or where our troops are. However, you would certainly know how to broadcast to the world idle gossip and photos for millions to endure.

Even when relevant stories are now covered it is often done in a fashion that makes light of what is important while glorifying the very subject we are trying to expose as ill in nature or evil; another politically incorrect concept.

It is critical that this does not mean we should to any degree flirt with censoring this young century’s unprecedented ability to transmit ideas and free thought.

Our very democracy depends upon the freedom and ability to say and listen to what is unpopular, albeit upsetting and disturbing, allowing each of us to make our own choice as to what we make of a story and what we plan to do about it.

But we must be cautious and steadfast in not becoming insouciant in discerning what is truly important from what is distracting us from what we gravely need to know.

Otherwise, we will become the very enemy we most fear; an ignorant and immature society that broadcasts to the world and to our children that we will stand for anything and therefore stand for nothing at all.

Published: Sep 15,2008 21:35
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