Tuned out: Why Americans under 40 Don't Follow the News

Overview

Our democracy is on the brink of a crisis, David Mindich argues in Tuned Out. As more and more young people turn their backs on political news, America is seeing the greatest decline in informed citizenship in its history. The implications for overall civic engagement are also enormous.
Crisscrossing the country, from Boston to New Orleans and Los Angeles, Mindich has interviewed scores of young Americans about how they keep up with the news: young professionals, college ...

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Overview

Our democracy is on the brink of a crisis, David Mindich argues in Tuned Out. As more and more young people turn their backs on political news, America is seeing the greatest decline in informed citizenship in its history. The implications for overall civic engagement are also enormous.
Crisscrossing the country, from Boston to New Orleans and Los Angeles, Mindich has interviewed scores of young Americans about how they keep up with the news: young professionals, college students, and even some preteens. What he discovers is a group that knows less, cares less, votes less, and follows the news less than their elders do and less than their elders did. Noting that the problem is reaching almost unfathomable proportions (the median viewer age of network television news is now 60), Mindich explores the roots of the problem, including the powerful lure of entertainment, which in recent years has grown exponentially—from MTV and ESPN to Nakednews.com—far overshadowing serious news programs. The challenge, Mindich says, is to create a society in which young people feel that reading quality journalism is worthwhile. Some newspapers have responded to the problem by pandering, adding Britney Spears and subtracting John Ashcroft. But in trying to make news matter to young people, the author notes, they make it matter to no one. Tuned Out offers a number of innovative responses to this problem, from requiring every channel to carry news as part of its children's programming to transforming college admissions policies, to changing journalism itself.
Written in the spirit of Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, this book illuminates a serious problem in our society, a problem that will only grow worse as older Americans retire and the "tuned out" young must take their place as leaders.

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Editorial Reviews

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. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195161403
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/15/2004
  • Pages: 172
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David T. Z. Mindich is the chair of the Journalism Department at Saint Michael's College, Vermont. A former assignment editor for CNN, he is the author of Just the Facts: How "Objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism. His writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, and The Baltimore Sun.

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Table of Contents

1 A generational shift 1
2 How tuned out are they? 18
3 Talking with young people I : striptease news and the shifting balance between need and want 34
4 Talking with young people II : who follows the news and why 60
5 Television, the Internet, and the eclipse of the local 77
6 The decline of general news and the deliberative body 95
7 Conclusion : how to tune back in 112
App. A People surveyed or interviewed for this project, 2001-2003 128
App. B Format of the standard interview 130
App. C Responses to questions 11-21 132
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