Newspapers: Dead Trees

I'm teaching a class on media and politics this semester. This is the third time that I'm teaching the class, so all the kinks should be ironed out, but I keep fiddling with the syllabus and the readings and the thing keeps mutating.

I added some juicy new readings on the popularity of the Daily Show with young people and how they really think that they are learning a lot from it, but they're not. There's also the very weird trend of mixing politics and entertainment and that people feel that it's perfectly ok to just subsist on a diet of ha-has. It makes for a good class, because I can do cheap things like inserting Daily Show clips into my lecture. Yes, I'm feeding into this ha-ha culture, but what can I say? I like good evaluations.

The latest edition of the New Republic has a ton of stuff on the politics of the media. An article on Politico, a Paul Starr article  on the death of newspapers, an elegy to a local newspaper. I might do something on these articles later in the week. Meantime, check out the depressing stats.

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20 thoughts on “Newspapers: Dead Trees

  1. Now see, isn’t it interesting that you mention the good evaluations as part of what drives you to ha-ha culture? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but when I see what passes for journalism these days it makes me wish for a little less democracy and a little *more* elitism. At least the kind of elitism that can spell and fact-check.

  2. Actually, I embed those videos into the PP slides for other reasons. 1. Stewart makes excellent critiques of old style media. His appearance on Crossfire was classic. 2. I’m desperate to get the students into this material. Half of my class reads no newspapers. Most have never watched the evening news. It’s really hard to get a debate going about the power of news anchors, when they have never watched Couric. They don’t even watch a lot of TV outside of VH1. Their homework assignments involve them watching TV shows and the news. It’s brutal out there.
    This class is hell on democratic idealism. These students voted for Obama because they thought he was cool, not because of any political positions.

  3. “This class is hell on democratic idealism. These students voted for Obama because they thought he was cool, not because of any political positions.”
    Hee.
    In my first college reporting class, the evil instructor (an LA Times guy) made us do an assignment based on Meet the Press every week. It was California, so that meant getting up every Sunday morning to watch MtP in the dorm lounge at 7AM. That was at the beginning of the Clinton administration and it was very educational. A bunch of other journalism professors had weekly news quizzes. I used to binge read a week of LA Times before going to class.

  4. I’m thinking back to my college years and wondering if I ever read the paper at that age? I definitely had boyfriends who read the sports section, but not me. And I NEVER watched the evening news for a variety of reasons. I don’t think NPR existed in its current format in the 80s — clearly if it did I wasn’t listening.
    Wow, what was I taking in, I now wonder? I was reading lots of lefty magazines, I think, and too much Noam Chomsky. And generally deriding my parents’ subscription to the Minneapolis Star-Trib.
    What was everyone else like as a college student? Plugged in? Or busily playing drinking games like yours truly?

  5. “What was everyone else like as a college student? Plugged in? Or busily playing drinking games like yours truly?”
    Now that we bring it up, I didn’t read the newspaper, didn’t watch evening news, or listen to NPR. I’m wondering if I did actually know anything, and if so how? I did have a boyfriend who was a NYT reader, but I can’t imagine I learned that much that way. I think I must have occasionally read the newspaper myself.
    But I certainly wasn’t plugged in the way I am now, and didn’t know nearly as much as I do now. Before the internet, NPR, listened to in the car or while I worked was probably the biggest source. Now it’s the webs.
    (no drinking games here, though, I spent my free time doing homework sets :-).

  6. I started reading the paper every day at breakfast when I was in junior high. And I usually had a subscription when I lived on my own, even during the drinking games phase of my life. I stopped in about 2003. Between the web, and the fact that you couldn’t even read the Arts section without getting acontextual slams at Republicans (I was reading the NYT then), I just stopped.

  7. I was an editor on the college paper, and we published 5 nights a week, so I was basically reading the AP copy/headlines every night.
    “you couldn’t even read the Arts section without getting acontextual slams at Republicans”
    In retrospect, you don’t think they deserved it?

  8. As an undergraduate, I discovered that reading a newspaper at the cafeteria had a magnetic effect on guys. Within minutes, some complete stranger would be asking me for the sports section. I bet this doesn’t work anymore.

  9. To be fair, the unusual schedule of college life makes it hard to watch the nightly news. I may be a news junkie now, but when I was in college, I was busy eating dinner or exercising or studying; my schedule did not really allow for watching the news. The 11:00 episode of “Studs” was timed just right for a study break, though. And I can’t remember a lot of my friends really watching tv except for a few people who watched soaps and a group of guys that would get together in the lounge to watch Star Trek Next Generation.
    My college students now barely watch any television (and when they do it is Family Guy or some kind of MTV Hills thing). Although, of course, they are also not reading any newspapers.

  10. A share of the NY Times is cheaper than the Sunday paper: http://www.crossingwallstreet.com/archives/2009/02/new_york_times.html
    There’s been a long string of dreadful decisions by Pinch Sulzberger (and worse! by Sam Zell and those who invested with him) which have exacerbated things for those papers. The Post still survives, largely insulated by having invested in Kaplan Test Prep instead of the Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal is worth something, though a lot less than Murdoch paid for it.
    I don’t know what to do for these guys. They provide a service which I like, and which I am willing to pay for, but which I can get for free. If nobody pays for it, it goes away.

  11. Playing plugged-in drinking games, maybe? The NY Times and the CS Monitor made their way to my little PO Box in the Tennessee mountains, with a delay of a day or two.
    I did news for our radio station for a little while, so I read stuff coming in off the wire. A teletype machine! That clacked! With really long rolls of low-quality paper. I’ll bet there was a bell for super-important stuff, but that didn’t happen while I was there.
    Immediacy was not all that important in a place where it was 26 miles to Mickey D’s and a significant share of the student body wore the academic gown to class on a daily basis.

  12. I didn’t watch the evening news when I was in college, but I had watched it when I was home with my folks. I understood what it was. My students, no. I had a subscription to the NYT, because it was required of pol. sci. majors. Most days, I just did the crossword puzzle.
    The students today have less exposure to news than we did. The studies about the Daily Show find that the students who read the newspapers are much more informed than those who only watch the Daily Show. Students get as much from the Daily Show as they do from TV news, but TV news ain’t great either. Young people who watch the show think that they are informed, but they aren’t. Those are just a few of the studies that I’m aware of.

  13. Doug, I remember the bells going off for breaking news. I think Indira Gandhi’s death and news of “somber music being played on USSR radio” (Andropov’s death?) were two things that warranted bells on the AP ticker.

  14. I’m pretty hard to out-nerd on Harry Potter. I know that electronics don’t work in Hogwarts for sound reasons having to do with magical interference and plot development.
    I’m just curious because I’ve never actually seen anybody in an academic gown outside of a graduation.

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