Monday, March 5, 2007

Where Are the Young Voices?

Here's a compelling piece from The Nation magazine worth sharing with college students and aspiring journalists alike--

Katha Pollitt has made the important point that women are grossly underrepresented on the op-ed pages of America's newspapers.

Here's another grossly underrepresented demographic in the media: young people. Millennials-- roughly defined as those 28 and under-- make up one-quarter of the population, yet we are nowhere to be found in the mainstream media.

Yesterday on TAPPED, Mark Schmitt acknowledged the phenomenon:

Here are the regular op-ed columnists for the New York Times and the Washington Post in ascending order of age:

Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, 42. (Does not live in the U.S.)

Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post, early 40s, graduated Oxford 1986.

David Brooks, Times, 45

Nick Kristof, Times, 48

and up they go from there. And they wonder why young people don't read newspapers!

Young people don't follow the news for a variety of reasons-- but the fact that they don't see anyone from their generation reporting the news is a huge factor.

Especially on TV. I don't know about you, but as a young person, my stomach churns every time I hear Charles Gibson try to make a joke. And whenever people like the comparatively young Brian Williams do any sort of reporting on "what's going on with those crazy youngsters," I find it condescending and out of touch.

Is it so shocking that so many of us watch Jon Stewart instead of this crap?

Unfortunately, the problem actually goes beyond the mainstream media. Young people and the issues they face are also poorly represented in the blogosphere. Sure, you've got some great young writers like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein, but these guys generally aren't writing specifically about the issues facing young people today. The slightly older Matt Stoller, who is young and writes a fair amount about the importance of getting young people involved in politics, is an exception.

As Mike Connery at the Future Majority blog writes, mega-blogs like Daily Kos rarely discuss issues relevant to Millennials:

But what about the blogs? Kos wrote a (positive) short post about the youth impact on the elections, but the community is rarely receptive to the ideas and concerns of its younger members. In fact, from my experiences writing on the site and trying to drum up support for young voters and youth projects, I would say that the community opinion on young voters ranges from somewhere between non-committal to downright hostile.

Given this, is it so shocking that 81 percent of progressive blog readers are over 40 years old?

This is a real shame, because countless studies have shown that Millennials are poised to become an incredibly liberal generation. They've got, more or less, good political instincts, and yet they're not motivated to act on them and become engaged. I've spent years trying to figure out why young people aren't engaged and I'll tell you what: The lack of young voices in the media is a huge part of the problem.

Copyright © 2007 The Nation

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